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Key Challenges in Group Sow Housing Systems

by 5m Editor
5 November 2013, at 5:41am

CANADA - A professor of agriculture with Newcastle University in the UK says the two key challenges facing pork producers who house sows in groups are ensuring each sow gets the right amount of feed and managing aggression, according to Bruce Cochrane.

Since 1999 the use of stalls during breeding or gestation has been prohibited in the United Kingdom prompting the adoption of a wide range of group housing systems.

"Group Housing of Sows, Getting it Right" will be among the topics discussed as part of Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2013, 19 and 20 November in Saskatoon.

Dr Sandra Edwards, a Professor of Agriculture with Newcastle University, says when all of the components are considered there are almost as many gestation housing systems to choose from as there are farms.

Dr Sandra Edwards-Newcastle University

I think we have essentially two important challenges.

The most important one to my mind is the challenge of ensuring that in a group situation every individual sow gets the right amount of feed and the ability to eat that feed without competition.

That plainly imposes a cost and the ways of addressing that problem have been quite diverse.

The second challenge is the managing of aggression in a group situation.

If a system is working well the animals are very calm and peaceful and everything goes smoothly but if the design or the management of the system in any way breaks down then the levels of aggression between sows can escalate and that brings about an unpleasant situation both for the animals and for the economics of the farm.

Dr Edwards says if you get the group housing system right it can be just as financially viable as existing stall systems but if you get it wrong it's not going to be and for an industry that's under constant cost pressure that's a risk we don't want to run.

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