Date Full Report Received01/29/2015
Date Abstract Report Received01/29/2015
Funded ByNational Pork Board
The farrowing crate is one of several common animal husbandry practices facing increased public scrutiny across the globe. Like a gestation stall, similar welfare concerns are expressed about practices that restrict the movements of animals and questions arise about alternatives to the farrowing crate. Unlike the gestation stall, the needs of the piglets also need to be considered when assessing welfare during this phase of production. The goal of this report is to review the scientific literature relevant to North American swine production on both sow and piglet welfare in different lactational housing systems. A systematic review process was adopted in an effort to provide an objective and transparent assessment of peer-reviewed work on lactational housing system for modern, commercial breeds of sows. We examined findings on the behavior, physiology and performance of both sows and piglets in 4 different types of housing systems: farrowing crate, hinged crate, individual pen, and group pen. Despite a relative scarcity of information on this topic, the following important themes emerged from our review. Farrowing crates likely provide welfare challenges to sows during the nesting and lactation phase of this stage of production. Resulting aberrant sow behaviors such as restlessness during farrowing and unresponsiveness to piglet vocalizations can contribute to piglet mortality observed in crates. However, the emerging consensus suggests that farrowing crates can provide a welfare advantage to the piglet by limiting additional mortality, especially during early lactation. Alternative farrowing systems can, but do not always, have comparable piglet performance, perhaps related to the role of humans in the management of these systems. A secondary goal of this review was to detail knowledge gaps in the literature. Several possibly fruitful areas of future research are described that promise to contribute to the design of a lactational housing system that best optimizes the needs of the sow, the piglet, and the farmer.
University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine
382 West Street Rd.
Kennett Square, PA 19348