Study to Influence Pen Configuration and Group Size

CANADA - Research conducted at the Prairie Swine Centre is expected to assist hog producers in deciding penning configurations and group sizes, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 31 July 2009
clock icon 3 minute read

A study conducted at the Prairie Swine Centre at Floral, Saskatchewan has confirmed pigs raised in large groups handle much easier than those raised in small groups.

During the study pigs raised in groups of approximately 240 loaded about 30 percent faster than pigs raised in groups of 16 to 20 and exhibited lower signs of stress such as labored breathing and redness.

Dr. Harold Gonyou, a research scientist in ethology, expects the findings to be of value to producers deciding how to raise their pigs.

Dr. Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

Certainly one of the things that we've had people ask us about is how easy is it to handle these pigs from large groups?

They're concerned that just getting them out of the pen et cetera will be more difficult.

What we found was that that's not really the case and that they do move easily down the hallway and up to the point of going up the ramp.

It first of all says you're not going to have more problems with pigs from large groups and, in fact, you'll probably have less.

The pigs simply have different experiences in their life and they're more willing to investigate and to travel.

I think that the pigs in the large group certainly have a different social pattern.

They interact with other pigs much better than do pigs that come from small groups.

There's no aggression et cetera when they meet with other pigs and I think part of that also relates probably to the fact that they're exploring that large pen as well.

They're used to walking longer distances and traveling more and just getting to know a larger space whereas pigs from the small group are from a very restricted area and I think there may be a bit of fear when they leave their pen.

Dr. Gonyou notes additional studies are looking the handling and transport of pigs going to market and researchers are looking at designing facilities to make them low stress which would be advantageous to all pigs but especially pigs from the larger groups.

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