Producers Urged to Focus on Advantages of Group Housing

CANADA - A researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre is encouraging pork producers to focus on the advantages offered by group housing as they consider moving away the use of gestation stalls, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 10 May 2013
clock icon 3 minute read

In the wake of increasing public pressure to eliminate gestation stalls some of North America's largest pork processors have committed to moving to group 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 if producers in Canada want to maintain market access they are going to have to make changes.

Dr Yolande Seddon - Prairie Swine Centre:

It's a large cost and we can't get away from that but I think we shouldn't see it negatively overall because there are lot of advantages and I would like to always put a positive spin on it.

In terms of sow longevity we would like to see some improvements because we know through scientific research that sows that are allowed to move around in a group situation have better fitness, have increased muscle density.

This also leads to more stability on their legs and in fact a shorter farrowing duration.

They have 30 per cent greater bone density.

They're actually very calm when you work in a group system.

They're all generally lying down and asleep where as sometimes when you go into a stall barn they can be very restless even after feeding times.

Also we would like to see an increased morale for staff of an industry and greater attention to detail in their stockmanship now that they're actually working with loose animals.

They're no longer just giving food and injections.

They're going to be really stock people looking at the behavior of animals and that can bring a lot of job satisfaction.

And we know that the productivity in a group system can equal to that if not exceed what happens in stalls.

Dr Seddon acknowledges, considering the economic state of the pork industry, there is some resistance to change but those who have made the conversion would not want to go back to stalls.

She says, where there have been problems with group housing, there have been clear deficiencies in the systems.

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