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Impacts of a freedom farrowing pen design on sow behaviours and performance

Gu, Zhaobing, Gao, Yajun, Lin, Baozhong, Zhong, Zhengze, Liu, Zuohua, Wang, Chaoyuan, Li, Baoming
Preventive veterinary medicine 2011 v.102 no.4 pp. 296-303
crushing, farrowing, farrowing crates, farrowing pens, fetal death, mortality, piglets, sows
The limited space in farrowing crate imposes many challenges, such as prolonged farrowing duration and high piglet stillbirth rate. Although the features of farrowing pens compensate for the drawbacks of farrowing crates, they are associated with high piglet crushing mortality caused by the greater space afforded to sows and their rolling-over behaviour. Therefore, a freedom farrowing pen was designed to overcome the drawbacks of both farrowing crates and farrowing pens. The main features of the freedom farrowing pen are its left anti-crushing bar and detachable right anti-crushing bar on the sides of the sow lying area. It also has a 10cm-high anti-crushing bar in the non-lying area. Eighteen healthy, multiparous Yorkshire sows (3–7 parity) were averaged and randomly assigned to farrowing crates, farrowing pens, and freedom farrowing pens to compare the effects of the farrowing systems on sow behaviour and performance. Results showed that the farrowing duration and the mean piglet birth intervals were longer for the sows in farrowing crates than for those in farrowing pens and freedom farrowing pens (P<0.05), but there was no difference between the sows in farrowing pens and those in freedom farrowing pens (P>0.05). The piglet stillbirth rate was higher for the sows in farrowing crates than for those in farrowing pens and freedom farrowing pens (P<0.001). Crushing mortality was higher among piglets in farrowing pens (P<0.001), but there was no difference between piglets in freedom farrowing pens and those in farrowing crates (P>0.05). The freedom farrowing pen and the farrowing pen allowed sows to turn around and move freely, but because of the different structures of their anti-crushing bars, the increase in sow movement did not cause higher piglet crushing mortality (P>0.05). Sows in freedom farrowing pens were found to be more protective of their piglets.