Straw Based Sow Housing Offers Economic Benefits

CANADA - Research conducted at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment indicates the switch from conventional slatted concrete floors to straw based group housing of sows offers certain economic advantages, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 13 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

Animal welfare regulations originating in Europe have prompted several North American pork processors to voluntarily start phasing in programs under which they'll only source hogs raised in group housing.

A multidisciplinary team of scientists working out of the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment is comparing the feed consumption, conditioning and reproductive efficiency of groups of breeding sows housed on conventional partially slated floors to those housed on straw.

Dr. Gary Johnson, an associate professor with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences is evaluating the economics.

He says straw based housing is physically much easier on the animal.

Dr. Gary Johnson-University of Manitoba

So far we're finding that the partially slatted concrete floors definitely put a physical stress on the animal.

When we look at the research data from the two barns we see that there is more culling earlier for physical reasons in the conventional barn over the alternative barn where there's straw based.

It looks like, just looking at the barns and this still very preliminary, that the profitability is higher in the alternative barn than it is in the conventional barn.

Now we have to be somewhat careful with that because we need to expand that profitability to take into account that we have a different manure handling system between the two barns and that changes how you apply manure on the field, it changes your cost of handling the manure itself at the barn and so we need to start taking that into account and we haven't done that yet.

Dr. Johnson says it appears some of these welfare measures could potentially increase profitability so incorporating them into the design of new facilities may have a positive effect rather than a negative effect on both productivity and profitability.

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