Potential Advantages from Straw Based Sow Housing

CANADA - Research conducted at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment indicates the adoption of certain animal welfare measures has the potential to increase profitability, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 17 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Several North American pork processors have started phasing in plans under which they'll source only hogs raised in group housing.

Scientists at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment are comparing the productivity and longevity of groups of breeding sows housed on conventional partially slatted concrete floors to those housed on straw.

Associate professor Dr. Gary Johnson says findings so far show partially slatted floors put physical stress on the animals resulting in higher culling rates in the conventional barn than in the alternative straw based system which suggests adopting some of these welfare measures could potentially increase profitability.

Dr. Gary Johnson-University of Manitoba

This would be in a new facility.

Obviously if someone's already got a constructed concrete partially slatted floor barn then they're not immediately going to rip that up and come in with a new straw based system and then change their manure handling system over to composting.

But this will be an important set of findings for people who are designing new facilities saying, "hey you know, look this appears to have a positive effect not a negative effect on production and profitability."

We're at a very crucial point at least in Manitoba in hog production because we're at the point where we have a number of 10 to 15 year old barns that are going to be coming up for replacement.

What this study is saying is, "look, if I'm going to design a new facility, I should take a look at straw based housing."

Meanwhile scientists are developing an interactive simulation model that will allow producers to compare the profitability of various barn configurations.

Dr. Johnson hopes to have that tool available for extension people and farmers toward the end of September.

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