Gestation Crates: A Practice of the Past, By Brent Hershey of Hershey AG

The swine industry has seen significant shifts over the years, particularly in the area of animal welfare. One of the most notable changes is the movement away from the use of gestation crates for sows. These crates, once standard in pig farming, have faced growing scrutiny and opposition from both the public and within the industry itself.

The push to eliminate gestation crates stems from a broader awareness and concern for animal welfare. Sows confined in these small, restrictive spaces face limited movement, which can lead to various physical and psychological issues. As our understanding of animal behavior and needs has evolved, so too has the call for more humane practices.

Many producers are transitioning to group housing systems, which allow sows to move more freely and exhibit natural behaviors. This shift is not only driven by ethical considerations but also by market demands. Consumers are increasingly looking for products that align with their values, and companies are responding by adopting more transparent and humane practices.

Adopting group housing and other welfare-friendly systems does come with challenges, including higher costs and the need for more management. However, the long-term benefits, such as improved animal health and productivity, make it a worthwhile investment.

The move away from gestation crates is a positive step for the industry. It reflects a growing commitment to animal welfare and aligns with the expectations of today’s consumers. As we continue to innovate and improve our practices, we can ensure a better future for both producers and animals.