Producers Encouraged to Base Sow Housing on Individual Priorities

by 5m Editor
8 February 2008, at 11:50am

CANADA - A researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre is encouraging hog producers to consider their own priorities when choosing a housing system for gestating sows, Bruce Cochrane.

Just over one year ago two of North America's largest swine production and processing companies, Maple Leaf Foods and Smithfield Foods, announced plans to phase out gestation stalls over 10 years in favor of group housing.

When you consider the various feeding systems, types of flooring and types of social management there are well over 50 and possibly 100 or more combinations for group housing.

The Prairie Swine Centre has been evaluating the different systems in terms of animal health, productivity and longevity.

Dr. Harold Gonyou, a research scientist in animal behavior, says as producers examine the alternatives they need to look at their own ability to manage sows in combination with such factors as how the sows will be fed, what type of flooring will be used and how and when the sows will be mixed during gestation.

Dr. Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

I think that it's a challenge to the industry but it's a challenge that we can meet.

You'll learn an awful lot as you start going into a group housing system and learn about caring for sows in that kind of system.

I think everyone that works in the area would have their preferred system that they would recommend.

The reality is every producer is in a different situation.

They have more or less greater concerns in terms of feed intake for example, they may feel that they're very good at managing social behavior of animals or how to group them together and so they might choose to go for a less expensive system.

Others feel that they want the very top care of their animals and so they go to one of the more expensive systems.

A lot of it depends on how much they care about certain issues and how much capital they have to put into it.

Dr. Gonyou notes the different systems vary considerably in terms of how sows are fed and managed, in terms of control over feed intake and in terms of costs so producers need to consider those differences in relation to their own priorities when developing a system.

5m Editor