North American Producers Prepare For Loose Housing

CANADA - The Chair of the VIDO Swine Technical Group suggests producers need to be aware of the strengths and weakness of the various systems before making the switch to housing gestating sows in groups, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 15 January 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

Most North America sows are housed in gestation stalls during pregnancy.

In the European Union use of gestation stalls must be discontinued by 2013 and in North America both Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods are phasing out gestation stalls over the next decade.

"Turning Loose on Sow Housing" is one of the topics being explored this week during the Banff Pork Seminar.

Vaccine Infectious Disease Organization Swine Technical Group chair Lee Whittington recalls 25 or 30 years ago sows were housed in small groups but concerns over aggression during mixing prompted the creation of crates to reduce aggression and to allow better control of feed intake.

Lee Whittington-Prairie Swine Centre

What's changed over the last 30 years is that our groups now are much larger and we have some new technologies that allow us to bring groups of sows together and, because sows don't count well past 50 or 60, some of the challenges of fighting and mixing have actually declined as group size has increased.

Of course we have also introduced some technology like electronic sow feeders which have allowed us to maintain control over how much that sow gets.

So if we see a sow that is somewhat lean compared to our desired standard for body condition, we can change the computer and allow more feed to flow to that sow when she comes into the feeder and is identified.

The Swine Technical Group has compiled a series of questions producers can consider to assess the strengths weaknesses of the various system prior to beginning renovations.

Whittington stresses many pork producers feel a need to maintain control over feed intake while others are willing to give up some of that control so there is no recommended best approach to sow housing.

Further Reading

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