[ASC-media] Pork CRC Pointers For Successful Sow Group Housing

brendon at iinet.net.au brendon at iinet.net.au
Tue Apr 15 20:49:49 PDT 2014

Pork CRC Media Release - April 16, 2014


Pork CRC Pointers For Successful Sow Group Housing


Australian pork producers and sows in their care are successfully
transitioning to group housing as part of the concerted efforts to produce
high integrity Australian pork and appropriately differentiate the product
from that of overseas competitors.


Addressing 150 pork producers and industry stakeholders at the recent Pork
CRC and APL 'Successful Group Housing Systems for Dry Sows' workshops in
Toowoomba, Queensland and Melbourne, Victoria, CRC for High Integrity
Australian Pork (Pork CRC) CEO, Dr Roger Campbell, described group housing
the Australian way as "now virtually a done deal".


"Most producers have made the transition and those who are now a couple of
years down the track are reporting very satisfactory production levels and,
it seems, improved welfare outcomes for sows.


"While the precise recipes for those successes vary slightly, the essential
ingredients are providing adequate quantity and quality of space for the
sows, plenty of feed availability and access, especially immediately after
first mixing of sows into groups and, as is the Australian way, good
stockmanship," Dr Campbell said.


Pork CRC Subprogram Leader, Professor Paul Hemsworth of the Animal Welfare
Science Centre (AWSC), University of Melbourne, said domestic pigs, just
like their wild relatives, needed to establish a social order or hierarchy
and this needed to be done quickly when sows were first mixed.


"Sows need adequate space to avoid other sows and research has shown that
space is more important than group size when mixing sows.


"Stress will, typically, reduce from day two to nine after mixing and
maximising space allowances, especially up to day two, will help reduce
aggression between sows.


"Superior stockmanship is very important with group housing and being aware
that if sows have recent familiarity they are likely to be less aggressive
on mixing," Professor Hemsworth said.


He added that the quality of floor space and feeding system type was also


Producers at the workshops generally agreed that providing plenty of feed,
including perhaps multiple drops per day if floor feeding, was very
important, especially when sows were first mixed in groups.


All feeding arrangements, including electronic sow feeding systems (ESFs),
where sows are trained and full or shoulder stall feeding, had advantages
and disadvantages. 


Producers should, for example, ensure sufficient ESFs for the number of sows
in the pen to minimise aggression during entry to the ESF.


Dr Jean Loup Rault, a colleague of Professor Hemsworth at AWSC, addressed
the workshops, recommending that, in order to limit unwelcome aggression
between sows mixed at weaning, producers should consider using feeding
stalls, distinct mating stalls and make efforts to limit sexual interaction
by dominant sows over submissive sows.


Chris Richards and Associates veterinarian, Dr Bernie Gleeson, warned of
unintended consequences, saying that nothing happened in isolation and this
was particularly the case in group housing.


Producers needed to be aware of potential hazards such as mycotoxins in
straw bedding, overweight sows, especially when floor feeding where dominant
sows may eat more than submissive sows and the strategic placement of self


Robust producer panel discussions were held at the Toowoomba and Melbourne
workshops, with most agreeing that the transition to group sow housing,
albeit challenging, was working well and that there was no one size fits all


Most agreed that the positive perception of improved sow welfare was


A very informative manual, titled 'Mixing Sows - How To Maximise Welfare',
was launched at the workshops and made available to producers. It can be
viewed and/or downloaded from the Pork CRC website at http://porkcrc.com.au/


Edited by Pork CRC Program One Leader, Dr Ray King, it is very
comprehensive, outlining the latest research on group housing sows and
strategies for mixing sows post weaning or post insemination.


Some key take-home messages in the manual are:

*	Current Australian research indicates that the minimum space
allowance for group housed sows is likely to be somewhere between 1.8 and
2.4 m2 per sow.  


*	Sows adapt quickly to mixing and may adapt to reduced space during
later stages of pregnancy.  


*	Physical and visual barriers within pens of large groups of sows
allow sows to avoid each other and escape aggressive sows.


*	Sows should receive average daily intakes that maintain targeted
body condition.


*	Higher feeding levels immediately after mixing and through to day 28
of gestation will minimise the risk of less dominant sows receiving less
nutrition, as well as reduce aggression.


*	Feed should be spread widely to allow greater access by timid sows,
while multiple feed drops, every 30 to 60 minutes, may reduce aggression at


*         Dynamic groups should not experience more welfare issues than
static groups, provided only a small proportion of sows enter and are
removed from the group at each change. 


*         Keep the majority of sows in the same group from one pregnancy to
the next and try to match sows into groups, based on parity and size.


www.porkcrc.com.au <http://www.porkcrc.com.au> 


Authorised by Pork CRC and issued on its behalf by 

Brendon Cant, Mob 0417 930 536.

<mailto:roger.campbell at porkcrc.com.au?subject=Media%20Release> Dr Roger
Campbell, Pork CRC CEO, Mob 0407 774 714.



Sow housing.docx/RC160414


Brendon Cant

Communications Manager

Tel +61 8 9430 9463

Mob +61 417 930 536


CRC for High Integrity Australian Pork

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