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Improvement in Conditions for Group-Housed Sows

by 5m Editor
12 December 2008, at 6:30am

DENMARK - Different aspects of farrowing systems for group-housed sows and their offspring were featured at an international workshop.


Piglet mortality for group-housed sows was no larger than for confined sows. The main risk factors affecting piglet mortality were low body temperature and birth weight. (Photo: Lene Juul Pedersen, DJF)

For many years it has been common practice to confine sows in crates when farrowing to save space and time. It has also been assumed that this would prevent the sows from crushing their piglets. In later years there has, however, been increasing pressure from consumers and organisations for sows to remain untethered. The alternative housing of sows in larger farrowing pens leads to new challenges and requirements for knowledge.

To this end, a number of scientists and other professionals from universities and research institutes in Denmark, England, Scotland, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden and Austria were gathered at an international workshop to share and exchange their knowledge and experience.

Among the Danish participants were senior scientist Lene Juul Pedersen from the Department of Animal Health, Welfare and Nutrition at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences (DJF), Aarhus University. She presented her research results on piglet mortality and design of farrowing systems for penned sows and their offspring.

Piglet mortality is highest immediately following birth, but there were no significant differences between systems using crates and systems with group-housed sows. She found that the microclimate in the farrowing pen had a larger influence on piglet survival than whether the sows were crated or not.

With the objective of creating a farrowing pen that optimises piglet survival and welfare and also the welfare of the sows and farm workers, Lene Juul Pedersen has been working with Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen from Danish Pig Production on devising different designs of farrowing pens for group-housed sows. This work has resulted in some principles for the design of farrowing pens and new prototypes for pens that will be tested in practice.

At the workshop the concept of group-housed sows and their piglets was illuminated from different angles, including breeding, management, behaviour, economy and its practical application in pig production.