Thu, 05 Oct 2017
CANADA - Research is showing the use of non-competitive feeding systems allows a greater range of sizes and ages of sows to be housed in larger groups in group sow housing systems, Bruce Cochrane reports.
As part of research being conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc to assist pork producers in making the move to group housing scientists have been examining the social dynamics of sows housed in groups.
Dr Jennifer Brown, a research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, notes there is considerable variation in the types of systems used for group housing and each system requires different management based on the different feeding systems with the main challenge being how to reduce aggression.
Generally we distinguish between competitive feeding systems and non-competitive feeding systems.
Competitive systems would be floor feeding or shoulder stalls where sows are actively competing for feed.
Non-competitive systems are those like electronic sow feeders and free access stalls where each animal is fed individually and so no other animal can displace it or compete for feed.
They may compete for access to the electronic sow feeder or access to a specific stall but that's usually less of an aggressive interaction than where they're actually competing for feed.
For competitive feeding you want small very stable groups throughout the gestation so sows can compete very well.
You want them very matched in body condition and body size so every sow in that group can compete for feed.
Where as in these non-competitive and automated feeding systems you can have a greater diversity of parities in the group and still be assured that animals are going to get their daily feed ration and you can also have larger groups.
Electronic sow feeders typically accommodate 50 to 60 sows per feeder and then you can even have multiple feeders within a pen so group sizes up to 300 sows in some systems.
For information on moving to group housing visit groupsowhousing.com.