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RESEARCH: Group housed lactating sows score well

In group housing systems for lactating sows, technical results achieved can be similar to systems housing lactating sows individually. This was confirmed in a research by the German trial farm Futterkamp, located in Blekendorf, in the Northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The research was set up to evaluate reproductive traits, daily feed intake and body condition of group and single housed sows. In total, data from 111 cross-bred sows with 124 litters were compared between March 2009 and August 2010.

Group housed sows had individual pens (4.7 m2) with a farrowing crate, electronically controlled gate and a shared running area (13 m2) between the pens. Group housed sows could walk freely except three days before farrowing until one day after farrowing.

In contrast to group housed piglets, single housed piglets grew up separately from unacquainted litters.

Weaned piglets
The number of weaned piglets was exactly the same (11.4 per litter), both for individual housing of lactating sows and group housing.

The only significant difference was that piglets from group housing weighed 7.6 kg – about 500 g less than piglets from traditionally housed sows.

Mortality rate of group housed piglets was 14.7%. About 6.5% was caused by crushing in the farrowing area and 1.2 procent by crushing in the free range zone. Mortality rate in individual housing was 15.7%, of which 4.8% due to crushing.

The research was commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and carried out In cooperation with researchers from the Christian-Albrechts University, Kiel.

The research was presented at last year’s Annual Meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science, held in Stavanger, Norway.

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