The total confinement of sows in crates during farrowing and lactation is receiving increased attention on a world wide basis. Because piglets and sows are sharing the same floor space during that period it is important to strike a balance between the welfare of the sow and the piglets during farrowing and lactation. As an alternative to a complete ban on confinement crates the use of farrowing pens with temporary crating (combi-flex) has been proposed as a compromise between conventional farrowing crates and pens. The Combi-Flex pen with a temporary farrowing crate option has been designed by Vissing Agro. The pen occupies a larger footprint than a conventional crate with a fully slatted floor. The farrowing crate can be opened up to allow the sow to turn around in the pen but also enables close containment when necessary.
Researchers from the Czech Republic wanted to assess the effects on sow and piglet performance
when temporary crating until 3 days post-farrowing was used. This includes measurements immediately after removal of the sow from the temporary farrowing crate and then again at 25 days into lactation. Sows were crated from 5 days pre-farrowing either to weaning (permanently crated –
PC group; N=14) or to D3 (83.0 ± 1.3 h) post-partum (TC group; N = 13). On D4 post-farrowing, Temporarily Crated (TC) sows were more active (10.9 vs. 7.1%; SEM: 0.8; P = 0.002), rolled more frequently (21.3 vs. 14.4%; SEM: 1.6; P = 0.008) and had lower IgA concentrations (139.7 vs. 75.2 μg/mL; SEM: 20.3; P = 0.040) than Permanently Crated (PC) sows. No effects of housing were found (P > 0.05) on standing-to-lying movement or cortisol concentrations. No differences for any variables were found (P > 0.05) on D25. Mortality, body weights and activity levels at the udder or in the pen of pigs born to PC sows did not differ (P > 0.05) from those of piglets born to TC sows on D4 nor on D25.
Take Home Message
This study confirms previous research that indicates that removal of confinement on the fourth day after farrowing did not impair piglets behavior and performance during lactation.
It appears that temporary crating up to the first 3 days postpartum could be a viable way to reduce
sow confinement while maintaining piglet welfare and production.
Submitted by Christine Pelland, MSc., DVM
Ref: Goumon S, Leszkowova I, Šimecková M, Illmann G.Sow stress levels and behavior and piglet performances in farrowing crates and farrowing pens with temporary crating. J Anim Sci. 2018 Aug 9. doi: 10.1093/jas/sky324.