How long does it take a group of sows to develop a social hierarchy? Do the pigs struggle getting used to group pens and Electronic Sow Feeding? When implementing group sow housing for the first time, quite a few questions about feeding sows and animal behavior arise. We want to help answer those questions! So we compiled a few answers to some of the common questions we hear into an easy to digest graphic.
Sows are highly social animals and if you ask a pig farmer, they can tell you that they do indeed have personality. When you group a bunch of personalities into one space for the first time, there is naturally going to be some tension and an adjustment period. Think of when you group a bunch of humans in one room. Some people get along, some people don't. Some people want to go talk to everybody, some people want to hide in the corner. Some try to show their dominance, and some gladly move out of the way. Others fight back with their aggressive personalities. While each barn and herd has a different adjustment period and a learning curve, the sows always settle in nicely after a few weeks.
Learn more about social behavior and sow feeding in group housing with these quick stats and fun facts.
Training Sows (and Staff) for Electronic Sow Feeding and Group Pens
Training your animals and especially your barn staff is the most important step of building a new barn or redesigning an old one. The level of training usually makes or breaks a barn operation. Having highly knowledgeable and trained barn staff is sometimes overlooked, but the sows will transition more easily if your employees know how to handle the animals in a group setting.
We always take a no pressure approach to training the pigs in a group sow pen. Gilts and new sows are trained using special pens that let their curiosity lead the way when exploring new equipment. Instead of forcing them through the new sow feeders, the barn staff should show the pigs how the equipment works and gently suggest they check it out. We all know how stubborn pigs are, so you are never going to win if you force them into anything. Pressuring the pigs will also cause them more stress which ends up turning into lower performing animals.
Knowing how to properly care for the sows in a group barn will help them settle in quicker with reduced amounts of stress on both the animals and the barn employees.