Ability to exercise benefits stall-housed gestating sows

The NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare says research has shown that gestating sows housed in stalls will benefit from the opportunity to exercise
calendar icon 18 May 2018
clock icon 3 minute read

"Exercising sows: What producers need to know" was among the topics discussed as part of the Prairie Swine Centre's 2018 series of Spring Producer Meetings.

Dr Yolande Seddon, the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare and an Assistant Professor in swine behaviour and welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says changes to the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs which, as of July 2024, will require producers who operate stall barns to provide gestating sows the opportunity to exercise has made freedom of movement a top of mind issue.

Dr Seddon explains:

"Largely I would say a lot of it is common sense.

"There have been a few studies out there that, if you actually do provide stall housed sows with exercise, exercise being where the heart rate is being raised, so three times a week for 30 minutes and there was another study that did two hours, seven days a week.

"What they did find was benefits to muscle tone. Bone density has been shown to improve, also increased blood flow and particularly they've looked at the reproductive effects of increased umbilical blood flow and they believe welfare benefits to the sow make fewer posture changes after they've been exercised which could indicate they've got rid of a lot of energy and are feeling comfortable.

"There have been studies, one study I know of, that's looked the turn around stall, at the ability of the animals to turn around and the gilts will turn around and it was found to influence stress levels."

Dr Seddon acknowledges duration and frequency of exercise will play a role in determining how beneficial exercise might be.

She encourages producers to be aware of the new code of practice requirements.

As reported by Bruce Cochrane, Farmscape.ca

Emily Houghton

Editor, The Pig Site

Emily Houghton is a Zoology graduate from Cardiff University and was the editor of The Pig Site from October 2017 to May 2020. Emily has worked in livestock husbandry, and has written, conducted and assisted with research projects regarding the synthesis of welfare and productivity of free-range food species.

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