Space Requirements for Gestating Sows

by 5m Editor
19 December 2008, at 10:54am

CANADA - Researchers with the Prairie Swine Centre report a range of factors will influence the amount of space required to maintain the health and productivity of gestating sows, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Several studies underway at the Prairie Swine Centre's newly renovated 300 sow research facility at Floral, Saskatchewan are examining the behavior of sows housed in groups in an effort to determine the amount of space required to maintain health and productivity.

The new barn uses walk-in lock-in feeding stalls which the sows enter to feed and are thereby protected from other animals until they decide to return to the group.

Research scientist Dr. Harold Gonyou observes sows tend to be more active early in gestation and less active as they become heavier in pregnancy.

Clip-Dr. Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

In terms of health and longevity, we know from other studies that have been done that you'll get more injuries and more lameness problems if your animals are crowded.

And so we know if we try to crowd the animals too much, to restrict the space too much, we'll start seeing some health problems so we do know that we need to have some amount of space.

One concerns that we have is that the behavior of the pig is quite different when they first go into a group than when they're settled in.

When they first go in you'll see some aggression because of them settling their dominance status or their social organization.

And during that time they need to move around more and so you have a greater possibility of them twisting a foot and injuring themselves.

Later on in gestation they're quieter animals and you don't see that quite as much.

Dr. Gonyou acknowledges there isn't a simple answer to how much space is required.

He notes European recommendations call for 25 square feet per sow but, when animals are not fed in a competitive manner that number can be reduced to 18.

He suggests we have to ask what the sows have to do in the space they are given and determine from that how much space is needed.