Group sow housing barns are not new to the industry, but people are often not sure what it is like inside one of these hog barns. Most of us are familiar with gestation stall barns from either working in one or seeing images of them online and throughout different media. While there are many gestation stall sow housing facilities in North America, the industry is transitioning to loose housing facilities. Get a first hand account of operations inside these facilities by listening to what Janae Metzger from Pig Hill Farms has to say about working in an ESF barn.
Animal welfare pressures are forcing producers to move to group gestation pens, which at times is frustrating, but we believe this transition is going to be for the better: for both the end consumer and the producer. Obviously end consumers will be more satisfied if sows are allowed to move freely throughout gestation, but how will this workout for producers? Producers are responsible for lowering the costs associated with their barn, as well as maintaining or improving the efficiency of the barn. This may seem like it is not possible with loose sow housing, but in reality, facilities with group gestation pens will end up lowering costs and improving efficiency. Plus, they have the added benefit of making the sows easier to work with.
In loose sow housing facilities, the pigs are happier and calmer, making them easy to train and causing less stress on the barn staff and the animals themselves. Janae explains, "The animals are very calm, they're usually sleeping, and when they're eating, there is no noise associated with it." With proper design, group sow housing barns, or ESF barns, are easy to manage and will make work much more enjoyable. Janae emphasized "From a work flow standpoint, it makes for a really calm environment."
Learn more about what it is like working inside a group sow housing facility by watching our interview with Janae above, or check out our additional resources here.