A study by researchers at Iowa State University found that placing pregnant sows in group housing structures (hoop barns) could be more cost-effective and just as productive as placing them in sow stalls.
The study, conducted for 2.5 years at a research farm in South West Iowa, compared sows housed in stalls to those housed in naturally ventilated hoop barns with straw bedding.
More live pigs
After tracking 957 litters from 353 sows, the scientists discovered that sows in the hoop barns gave birth to more live pigs per litter than those in gestation stalls.
They also found that group housing may produce hogs at a cost of as much as 11% less per weaned animal than the sow stalls, also known as gestation crates.
The scientists suggested that the bedding and the sows’ ability to huddle in the hoop barns, thus controlling their temperature, could have added to their performance.
The use of sow stalls is very topical in the US, as several states have already banned this practice. In addition, companies like Smithfield and Maple Leaf will phase out the use of gestation crates within the next decade.
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