Those unfamiliar with well-designed group housing for sows may think that a large open pen will be prone to stress, higher disease rates and an increase in general health problems. With good hog barn designs, sows are actually maintaining good health in loose housing. It's easier than you might think.
Less Stress, Happier Pig, Happier You
If a sow has space to move around, get a little exercise, and maybe socialize with her friends (if she likes that sort of thing) her stress levels will decrease. Less stress on her means less stress on her little piglets, and an overall healthier gestation. Pigs who are less stressed are also more resistant to disease than stressed sows, thanks to a boosted immune system. Who wouldn't rather have a happy and healthy sow?
The Misconception: Aggression
What misconception goes along with loose housing? Aggression. With the sows together, they'll show aggressive tendencies, cause injury to other sows in the name of dominance, and that will cause stress. While dominant sows in too close proximity to one another can show aggression, our hog barn designs allow enough space per pig that each sow feels comfortable and doesn't need to display dominance. Of course, you will still have some pigs that are a little more "confident" than others, but overall, aggressive tendencies aren't a problem when enough space is accommodated in the sow pen.
In our hog barns, we implement tailored feeding to each individual sow with ESF technology. This means that each sow has a special tag on their ear that is read to deliver the exact amount of food a sow needs. This also means that it doesn't matter if one sow needs a little more feed than another - each will get the exact amount needed. We also implement scales that record their weight, and if a sow isn't gaining, she can be further examined for any health problems that may be happening.
The Misconception: Food Fights
Sows that are housed together are fed together, right? This isn't necessarily true. If sows are fed all at once, dominant sows can fight for more food, leaving the more submissive pigs with little or no food. With the help of the individualized eating and the ESF technology, each sow is eating what she needs - no girls are left out. The more submissive pigs are still getting their food, and the dominant sows don't have the opportunity to deny food to others. This prevents uneven body conditions among your sows, ensuring that each is at a proper weight.
Both traditional gestation stalls and our hog barn designs offer an opportunity for minimized sow aggression, reduced competition for resources, individualized feeding, and control of body conditions. In group sow pen, the girls also have the freedom of movement, socialization, and exercise. For your bottom line, it means healthier, happier sows. To truly keep your sows healthy in loose housing, you'll need to implement a design that reduces aggression and food competition, but this is much easier than you might think. From there, you'll reap the benefits of a future-forward barn design.
Pigs are our top priority - everyone else's needs come in as a close second. We want consumers and producers alike to know how the pigs kept in our barn designs are healthy, happy, and productive. If you'd like to know more about how our designs are focused around the pigs' needs, click below!