Ratification Date: 01 Dec 2013
Sow housing should optimise the health, nutrition and welfare of sows, newly born piglets and unborn piglets. Feeding systems for pregnant sows housed in groups must minimise aggression and allow all sows equal access to food and water to meet their physiological requirements. Accommodation for farrowing and lactating sows must be designed and managed to optimise sow welfare whilst minimising piglet mortality.
In previous housing protocols, stall housing of individual sows during early pregnancy for periods up to 6 weeks was commonly endorsed as a means to reduce reproductive losses and adverse social interactions. New research in addressing group housing that reduces the need to confine sows individually, and promotes sow welfare through improved mobility, environment and social interaction is supported.
Pregnant sows housed in groups will fight to determine group hierarchy, with fighting accentuated at feeding times. Any housing and feeding system for pregnant sows in groups must:
- minimise competition for food and water and the associated fighting, stress and injury to sows
- ensure appropriate daily food and water intake and good nutrition of all sows, and allow individual sows to be fed more as required to maintain their body condition score above 2 out of 5.
- maximise the proportion of successful pregnancies by reducing stress-induced abortions.
There are similar considerations for housing farrowing and lactating sows and their piglets.
Farrowing accommodation must:
- ensure appropriate daily food and water intake and good nutrition of all sows (including the increased feed and water intake required to produce milk for rapidly growing piglets)
- minimise the number of overlain suckers and the pre-weaning death rate
- enhance the health, nutrition, welfare and survival of piglets by:
- providing control over the quality of their environment
- allowing the provision of supplementary heating and feeding (if required)
- facilitating close supervision and care by farrowing shed stockpeople.
The quality of stockmanship of the people caring for the sows and piglets must be sufficiently high to minimise any adverse effects of sow housing.
Further research is urgently required to develop systems that improve housing of sows and piglets.
Other relevant policies and position statements
Arey, DS. and Edwards, SA (1998) Factors influencing aggression between sows after mixing and the consequences for welfare and production. Livestock Production Science. 56 (1): 61–70.
Barnett JL (1995). The welfare of sows: housing options for dry sows. Report to the Pig Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
Barnett JL, Hemsworth PH, Cronin GM, Newman EA and McCallum TH (1991). Effects of design of individual cage-stalls on the behavioural and physiological responses related to the welfare of pregnant pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 32:23–33.
Barnett JL, Hemsworth PH, Cronin GM, Jongman EC and Hutson GD (2001). A review of the welfare issues for sows and piglets in relation to housing. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 55:1–28.
Bench, CJ. Rioja-Lang, FC. Hayne, SM. And Gonyou, HW (2013) Group gestation housing with individual feeding – 1: How feeding regime, resource allocation and genetic factors affect sow welfare. Livestock Science. 152 (2-3): 208-217.
Broom DM, Mendl MT and Zanella AJ (1995). A comparison of the welfare of sows in different housing conditions. Animal Science 61:369–385.
Chapinal, N. Ruiz de la Torre, JL. Cerisuelo, A. Gasa, J. Baucells, MD. Coma, J. Vidal, and A. Manteca, X (2010) Evaluation of welfare and productivity in pregnant sows kept in stalls or in 2 different group housing systems. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research. 5 (2): 82-93.
Cronin GM, Simpson GJ and Hemsworth PH (1996) The effects of the gestation and farrowing environments on sow and piglet behaviour and piglet survival and growth in early lactation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 46:175–192.
Hemsworth PH, Barnett JL and Hansen C (1981). The influence of handling by humans on the behaviour, growth and corticosteroids in the juvenile female pig. Hormones and Behaviour 15:396–403.
Kemp, B. Soede, NM. (2012) Reproductive Issues in Welfare-Friendly Housing Systems in Pig Husbandry: A Review. Reproduction in Domestic Animals. 47 (Supplement s5): 51–57.
Nicholson RI, McGlone JJ and Reid LN (1993). Quantification of stress in sows: comparison of individual housing versus social penning. Journal of Animal Science 71 (Supplement 1):112.
Nind LA, Cameron RDA and Blackshaw JK (1997). A study of uterine motility in sows during farrowing and its relationship to housing, parity and piglet vigour. In: Livestock Environment V, vol 1, Bottcher RW and Hoff SJ (eds), American Society of Agricultural Engineers, St Joseph, Michigan, 427–433.
Spoolder, HAM. Geudeke, MJ. Van der Peet-Schwering, CMC. and Soede, NM. Group housing of sows in early pregnancy: A review of success and risk factors. Livestock Science. 125 (1): 1-14.
Date of ratification by AVA Board December 2013