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New Research Targets Improved Sow Group Housing

19 January 2015, at 9:23am

CANADA - Research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc will help pork producers improve the management of gestating sows as they convert from stall housing to group housing, writes Bruce Cochrane.

As part of research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists with the University of Manitoba, the Prairie Swine Centre, and the Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada are collaborating in a national effort aimed at optimising the flooring and social management of group housed gestating sows.

Dr Yoland Seddon, a post doctoral fellow in swine ethology and welfare with the Prairie Swine Centre, explains the goal is to improve various aspects of managing breeding sows when moving to group housing.

Dr Yoland Seddon-Prairie Swine Centre:

We've picked out several aspects that we feel are very important when moving toward group housing.

One of them is suitability and quality of flooring for sows, so we're actually establishing in that what slat and gap width seems to be best for the animals, and how do different slat and gap widths, different surfaces affect how the animals are walking on them and their traction.

We're also looking at the social management of grouping sows so this is actually exploring different mixing options, mixing sows post weaning before they're bred, mixing sows post insemination or mixing sows at five weeks of gestation after they've been in breeding stalls and this will also help to give producers an answer as to what works best in large North American Systems and also we're looking at the use of enrichment and what could be suitable enrichment to occupy sows and promote calm in the group and also help to meet the requirements in the code of practice.

Dr Seddon suggests the information generated from this research will be of particular value as producers face ever increasing pressure for elimination of stall use in pork production.

She notes most systems seem to work, as long as they are well managed.

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