With lameness as one of the top reasons for culling sows, the topic was the focus of several presenters. Magnus Campler, of The Ohio State University, shared with those in the audience that more research is needed.
For example, a recent study that he was involved with did not offer conclusive evidence that rubber mats im- proved lameness in sows, but rather, they increased piglet mortality (see below).
In a related presentation on the factors that should be considered when evaluating sow lameness in different housing systems, Laurie Connor with the animal science department at the University of Manitoba, Canada, talked about the importance of the quality and quantity of space.
Connor told attendees that fighting between sows is not essential to establish and maintain a dominance/social hierarchy. Clearly defined space and areas for feeding, drinking, dunging and loafing contribute to minimal com- petition and enhance social stability in groups, she added.
“Adequate space equates to more exploratory behav- iors and fewer competitive encounters – both indicators of well-being,” said Connor, noting that the incidence of lameness was greater on concrete slatted floors than on solid floors with bedding. “There
are many pros and cons.”
With the use of slat and gap spacing, Connor noted that five-inch slats with three-fourths inch gaps are recommended in Canada.