Grower pigs housed in pens with an extra platform are performing better than those held in pens with a single floor.
That was the conclusion of a recent trial at the University of Veterinary Medicine (TiHo) in Hanover, Germany. Germany’s agricultural title Top Agrar reported recently about the study to ‘Ferkelbalkone’, i.e. ‘piglet balconies’.
An extra platform or plateau in pens for weaned piglets is a cheap solution to create additional floor space for the animals. That extra space leads to more animal welfare and eventually better performance as well, the scientists concluded.
A pig farm with plateaus in the weaner house – not related to the research described in this article. A few climbing daredevils can be observed in the background. - Photo: Vincent ter Beek
More growth than in conventional pens
The research showed that piglets grew 23g extra on average, measured during a 6-week grower phase, when housed in a pen with more floor space in comparison to conventional pens. During the first weeks the piglets did not use the plateau much and the difference was relatively minor. As from day 22, a more distinct difference was observed, as the piglets having plateaus at their disposal grew 596 g/day versus 562g/day for piglets held in conventional pens.
Fewer grower pigs with skin lesions
When it came to animal welfare, the pigs held in pens with extra platforms appeared to have fewer skin lesions resulting from aggression. The bigger the animals grew, the fewer lesions they had. That is completely related to the fact that the animals had space to keep away from more dominant pigs. Video observations confirmed that fewer hierarchy fights occurred in plateau pens.
In the beginning of the grower phase, the piglets were observed to stay downstairs at the pen floor. The bigger they grew, however, the more they used the extra platform and 445 of the 450 observed grower pigs were observed to do so – a 99% visitor percentage. Roughly 25% of the piglets could be seen at once at the extra platform.
Manure is a problem with plateaus
According to the researchers, the largest disadvantage of the platform system is hygiene related, related to manure and urine falling through the slatted floor onto the lower platform.