Embracing loose housed sows: Danish experiences with DanBred genetics

As North American pig producers adapt to the new standards set by California’s Proposition 12, they can look to the experiences of Danish pig producers for guidance and inspiration.

Proposition 12 will inevitably mean more loose housing of sows in the US. American pig farmers can ease their concerns by looking to the Danish experiences with DanBred genetics. For decades, the DanBred sow has been selected, raised, and bred in the loose housing system. She is known to be calm, gentle, and easy to work with – and to have excellent mothering abilities.

Decades of experiences with loose gestating sows

The transition to loose housing of gestating sows in Denmark has been a significant journey, driven by both political pressure and consumer demands. The legislation, which came into effect on 1 January 1999, requires that sows must be loose from four weeks after mating until seven days before expected farrowing [1]. The Danish farmers were given almost 15 years to implement the new housing system, and as of 1 January 2013, all gestating sows and gilts have been loose in Denmark [2].

In the beginning, Danish pig producers were concerned about possible negative effects, of course, but the results have been great. Results from Denmark show that the sow productivity has continuously increased from 29.9 weaned pigs per sow in 2012 to 34.1 weaned pigs per sow in 2022. Moreover, neither the amount of medicine used for sows nor the mortality has increased following the new legislations.

In fact, the Danish experiences with Danbred genetics have proven that the DanBred sows are easy to manage, also in a loose housing system, as they are calm and gentle – towards each other as well as towards the farm employees who handle them.

The results are clear: with DanBred pigs, it is possible to have loose sows and still achieve competitive reproductive performance. Thus, combining animal welfare and word-class productivity.

Danish farmers have embraced the transition to loose housing. In fact, many are also implementing loose sows in the farrowing unit – a lot of Danish farmers applied for grants to build new pens for loose lactating sows in 2023 [3]. And in 2024, a new agreement was concluded, which requires all newly built farrowing pens to be designed for loose housing, while the use of traditional stalls will gradually be phased out during a transition period [4]. This is a clear sign that the Danish pig producers see loose housing systems as the future.

Choose genetics that are bred for loose housing system

There are several factors to take into account when transitioning to loose housing of sows. Of course, productivity in the new production system is a major factor, however, the sows’ temperament and level of aggression towards other sows and farm employees should also be a significant consideration.

For pig producers considering a transition to loose housing of gestating sows, DanBred genetics is a safe and wise choice. With decades of experience with loose housed sows and a track record of success, the DanBred breeds, DanBred Landrace, DanBred Yorkshire, and DanBred Hybrid, will make the transition smooth and effortless. Embrace the change and let DanBred genetics guide the way to a more welfare-friendly and productive future.


[1] Retsinformation (1997): https://www.retsinformation.dk/eli/ft/199722K00042

[2] Retsinformation (2013). Lov om ændring af lov om indendørs hold af drægtige søer og gylte. https://www.retsinformation.dk/eli/ft/201312L00088

[3] Danish Agriculture & Food Council (28 April 2023). Loose-housing is the future for Danish sows. https://agricultureandfood.co.uk/news-and-statistics/news/loose-housing-is-the-future-for-danish-sows/

[4] Danish Agriculture & Food Council (23 April 2024). Danish pigs set new standards for animal welfare in EU. https://agricultureandfood.co.uk/news-and-statistics/news/danish-pigs-set-new-standards-for-animal-welfare-in-eu/

[5] California Department of Food and Agriculture (1 July 2023). Animal Care Program, Proposition 12, Farm Animal Confinement. https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/AHFSS/AnimalCare/

[6] Flynn, Dan (2 January 2024). California’s Prop 12 is now the law of the land. Food Safety News. https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2024/01/californias-prop-12-is-now-the-law-of-the-land/

[7] National Pork Producers Council (17 August 2022). California Law Creates Heavy Burden for U.S. Pork Industry. https://nppc.org/op-ed/california-law-creates-heavy-burden-for-u-s-pork-industry/