The health and welfare of newly-weaned sows indoors

calendar icon 9 November 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

Design requirements

These need to satisfy the change in ambient temperature, feeding patterns and psychological and physiological stress that are associated with the process of weaning.

The following methods of housing can be adopted:

  • House sows individually in sow stalls or tethers from weaning.
  • House sows in groups of two or three in spacious pens.
  • Mix all sows into one group at weaning.
  • Group sows from the day of weaning together with a boar and then remove to confinement during the mating period. Sows are then regrouped with the boar within 48 hours after mating.
  • Use a dynamic group system.

Size - In loose-housed weaning accommodation allow approximately 3.4 sq.m. of floor area per sow.

Floors - Keep these as dry as possible at all times and ensure that they are comfortable and well drained.

Ideally use straw bedding but if this is not available use other materials. Replace bedding daily. Soiled wet bedding can cause mastitis, vaginal infections and infertility.

Water - Site nipple drinkers or troughs in a well drained area.

Feed - Feed to appetite from day one after weaning through to the day of mating, preferably from an ad lib feeder. If your sows are group-housed allow a minimum of two separate feeders spaced well apart to reduce stress at feeding time and prevent anoestrus developing in disadvantaged sows.

Group size - Ideally 6 - 15 sows.

Temperature - For the first 4-5 days post-weaning this should approximate that being used in the farrowing houses at the time of weaning.

Management, welfare and disease

The weaning to mating period is a critical time for the group housed sow because there can be a considerable amount of disturbance and aggression. Good non slip floor surfaces and smooth walls are essential to prevent trauma and injury. Where practicable, sows should be grouped by size. Particular care should be taken with the weaned first litter gilt and thin sows to ensure adequate food intake and reduce any fighting and aggression.

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