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let's talk farm animals

You were asking about…housing for pigs

 by Patricia Grotenhuis, Lifelong farmer and agricultural advocate

Many people wonder why pigs are in individual pens on many farms.  There are a variety of reasons.

Pigs are omnivores, and can be quite aggressive, especially at feeding time.  While competing for food, pigs have been known to bite each other.  Individual pens protect against this by removing competition for food and water.

Having the sows in individual pens also makes it easier for farmers to monitor health and feed intake of each animal.  Close monitoring means illnesses can be diagnosed sooner, and pens limit spread between animals if the illness is contagious. 

The downside of individual housing makes it so pigs cannot socialize with other animals in the barn and restricts their movement.  Research is happening continually to find ways to improve housing systems.  Findings are providing improvements to barns on a regular basis. 

When designing a housing system, there are more factors to consider than isolation.  You also have to take into account animal health and welfare, human health and safety, environmental impacts, food safety and economics.
Farrowing pens, or individual pens designed for sows that are giving birth or nursing, are common on farms.  These pens have the sow enclosed in one area  and the piglets are able to move around within the sow’s enclosure or outside of the sow’s enclosure.  This allows farmers to provide a heated area for the piglets to sleep, and gives the sow something to lean against.  The pens also protect the piglets from being laid on by their mothers, which is a very real danger.  Some farmers have decided to not use farrowing crates, and use individual pens with a heat lamp in one corner instead.  There are arguments for and against both systems.

Farrowing pens

No housing system will be perfect, but farmers and researchers are continually striving to improve the systems being used.

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Posted by OFAC on September 1st, 2011 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal health,Housing,Innovation and technology,Pigs
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