Sows Housed on Straw Perform Longer than Those Housed on Concrete

CANADA - Research at the University of Manitoba's National Centre for Livestock and the Environment shows the longevity of sows housed on straw tends to be better than that of sows housed on partially slatted concrete floors, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 6 December 2007
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Scientists at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment are comparing the conventional partially slatted concrete floors to an alternative straw based system, looking at animal behavior, health and production performance.

Department of Animal Science head Dr. Laurie Connor reports culling rates in the group housed on concrete have been about ten percent higher than in the group housed on straw.

Dr. Laurie Connor-University of Manitoba

Performance wise, after about a year and a half now, they seem to be very similar.

But, if we look closely at the sows, what we're seeing is that things like culling rate are higher within the conventional solid floor system and it seems that the majority of those are associated with foot, leg, joint types of problems that are probably a combination of the actual type of flooring type of environment.

There's no cushioning like there is on straw and also, when the sows are grouped together, those that are on the concrete type of floor, if they're going to scrap a bit, there's more opportunity for them to hurt themselves.

Also, since there isn't really much else for them to do, we do have a few chains hanging down for them to chew on but there isn't the straw as there is in the other barn for them to actually occupy themselves so sometimes they're fighting and disagreements will go on for a bit longer.

In the alternative barn when those sows are mixed together they tend to very rarely fight.

They do spend a lot of time just chewing on straw and just checking out the environment.

Dr. Connor notes the most of the culling of sows in the conventional group was due to physical problems, joint and leg lameness, while most of the culling in the straw based group was due strictly to reproductive considerations.

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