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Think Holistically When Considering Converting Sow Barns

26 April 2013, at 2:07pm

CANADA - A researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre is encouraging pork producers to think holistically when considering making the switch from gestation stalls to group housing of pregnant sows, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Facing increasing public pressure to eliminate gestation stalls some of the largest North American pork producers have committed to moving to group sow housing systems and many retailers are now saying they want to source pork from stall free systems.

Dr Yolande Seddon, a post-doctoral fellow in swine ethology and welfare with the Saskatoon based Prairie Swine Centre says, when you consider the various components, feeding and flooring, dynamic or static grouping and time of mixing, there are over 70 possible configurations.

Dr Yolande Seddon-Prairie Swine Centre:

Definitely you want to consider the correct feed system for the size of your herd.
If you have a larger herd size, maybe you want to manage sows in larger groups, it can be easier and using an electronic sow feeder is very favorable for these systems because you can manage a large number of sows with good precision.

Smaller herd sizes, it's more conducive to work with smaller group sizes and to get hands on.
Individual feeding, for some farmers, they will always regard it as very important and we do as well.

If they are worried that their staff are not going to be able to handle the more complex systems such as floor feeding where you need very good hands on sow management then maybe they'd want to go to a gated stall system where the sows can be protected from one another and it requires less intensive stockmanship management.

So you need to weigh individually how your barn staff are, what is your existing floor plan, what can you accommodate?

All this will factor into it.

Some producers may have to reduce their herd size slightly but again, they shouldn't initially fear this because we do have a greater productivity from our sows now so maybe this can actually help to reduce, if there's overstocking in the barn, then just focus on having the sows that you have getting excellent productivity.

For more on converting to group sow housing, visit the Prairie Swine Centre's web site at prairieswine.ca.

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