Effect of alternative farrowing pens with temporary crating on the performance of lactating sows and their litters
Received: Mar 23, 2022; Revised: Apr 29, 2022; Accepted: May 09, 2022
Published Online: May 10, 2022
This study was conducted to investigate the effect of alternative farrowing pens (AFPs) with temporary crating on the performance and behavior of lactating sows and their litters. A total of 64 multiparous sows were randomly divided into two groups and were allocated to farrowing crates (FCs) and AFPs. AFPs contained a crate and support bars that could be folded to provide the sows with extra space on day 5 postpartum. Behavior was recorded by charge-coupled device cameras and digital video recorders, and the data were scanned every 2 min to obtain an instantaneous behavioral sample. Farrowing systems did not affect feed intake, back-fat thickness, weaning-to-estrus interval, piglet birth weight, or piglet weaning weight (p > 0.05). In addition, there were no differences in the number of crushed piglets between the two farrowing systems (p > 0.05). The sows spent most of their time lying down during the lactating period, at about 80% lateral recumbency and 10–15% ventral recumbency. The only significant differences were in the feeding and drinking behavior between sows in the two farrowing systems (p < 0.05). FC sows displayed more feeding and drinking behavior than AFP sows, especially in the late lactating period (p < 0.05). Piglets in FCs tended to spend more time walking than piglets in AFPs (p < 0.05), whereas there were no differences in suckling and lying behavior between piglets in the two farrowing systems (p > 0.05). It is thus concluded that AFPs did not negatively affect the performance and behavior of lactating sows and their litters compared to FCs. The AFPs also seem to be a feasible alternative farrowing system for commercial farms. However, more detailed research is needed to find suitable housing designs to maximize productivity and animal welfare.