Research Shows Some Sows Prefer Stalls

CANADA - Research conducted by the Saskatoon based Prairie Swine Centre shows, given the choice, not all sows will choose to leave their stalls, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 6 August 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Several packers and producers have indicated a desire to transition from stall housing to group housing over the next decade.

The Prairie Swine Centre has completed a study which examined free space utilisation by sows in free access stalls to determine the number, size and parity of sows that use the free space.

Dr Harold Gonyou, a research scientist in animal behavior, explains researchers tracked the amount of time sows spent inside their stalls and in the free access area.

Dr Harold Gonyou-Prairie Swine Centre

We found that the sows did spend a fair amount of time within the stalls, that they would eat and then many of them would lie down within the stalls.

We found that 95 per cent of the sows at some point would leave their stall during their gestation.

We know that they did that because we found them in different stalls the next day.

But when we were looking at them over a 24 hour period we found that we'd have 40 per cent of the sows or so that spent less than two percent of the time outside the stalls throughout the day but we also had some that would spend 80 or 90 percent out.

So what we saw was about 20 percent of the sows outside of the stalls at any time during the day but we found it very skewed in terms of who was outside and who was inside the stalls.

We found that the sows that were outside are the larger sows and the older sows and this raises two questions in our mind.

Are the younger sows staying in the stall and not using the free access space because they want to avoid these other larger sows, so it's the dominance or social management question.

And the other one is, maybe the stalls that we were using which were 26 inches wide are not adequate to provide a comfortable lying space for the older sows and so they felt that they had to get out and lie somewhere else.

Dr Gonyou says further research is needed to identify the issue and to come up with ways to even out the use of the free access space.

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