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New research shows regular exercise improves survival rate of offspring of older sows

Research conducted at the Prairie Swine Centre indicates the offspring of higher parity or older stall-housed sows have a higher rate of survival when those sows receive regular exercise.

13 March 2020, at 9:51am

In response to Canadian Pig Code of Practice requirements for gestating sows housed in stalls after 2024 to be provided greater freedom of movement or regular exercise, scientists are evaluating the influence of exercise.

Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor of Swine Behaviour and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare, says, as part of the work, the productivity of sows housed in gestation stalls was compared to sows housed in gestation stalls that were given 10 minutes of exercise per week and sows housed in group housing.

"We actually found there was no difference in sow performance in terms of total born alive between the young and mid sows but the older sows, we found that when they were in the exercise group, they actually had a higher number of live born piglets," says Dr Seddon.

"When we looked at the number of stillborns, again there was no effect for young and mid-parity sows but we actually found that older parity sows in the control group - the stall-housed group - actually had a higher number of stillborns. So there appears to be an age effect.

"We did conclude that, if the benefit of exercising sows for ten minutes once a week was only going to benefit older parity sows, because they might represent only 18 percent of your herd, if you had two more piglets produced that would survive to finishing, exercising a sow for ten minutes accounting for the labour and the extra money from producing two piglets raised to finishing, it would still result in a cost of production increase of $5.90 per pig produced."

Dr Seddon suggests, while exercising only the older sows would provide a cost benefit, there didn't seem to be enough of a productivity increase to account for the labour involved in exercising the whole herd.

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