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Management And Maintenance Of Commercial Piggeries

1001 words - 5 pages

Commercial piggeries face the challenge to effectively utilise housing management options to optimise productivity while maintaining animal welfare. The common use of farrowing crates is often a subject of contention as crates are spatially restricting and thought to inhibit natural behaviours (Hales et al., 2014). Increased public awareness of this animal welfare issue has pressured producers to adopt the use of pens as an alternative. The use of pens however is associated with increased sow aggression and higher levels of piglet mortalities (Hales et al., 2013). Health status, aggression and behaviour and reproductive performance of sows were monitored in several studies to investigate the effect housing may have on the welfare of sows and piglets.

A study by Johnston & Li (2013) aims to investigate the feasibility of transferring sows from farrowing crates to pens without compromising performance and welfare of the animals. Data was collected from 815 sows which were sorted into three treatment groups: small pens, large pens and farrowing crates. The number of animals culled from each treatment group was used to indicate compromised performance and well-being. The main reasons for culling animals include poor reproductive performance in large pens and crates while mortality was the major cause for removal of animals in small pens. Results showed that sows in pens had a higher removal rate compared to sows in crates for the duration of the study. Sows in pens also had a lower body weight at the end of the gestation period compared to sows in crates (Johnston & Li, 2013) and no animals were culled for being overweight. The time allocated was a limitation in this study as the experiment was conducted over one gestation period. Further investigation will be required to monitor causes of significant weight changes. This disparity may be due to several factors including competitive floor feeding, formation of social hierarchy and aggressive interactions in group-housing systems. Limited pen space and closely situated feed drops may have exalted competitive feeding as dominant sows could readily access more feed, resulting in the poor body condition of other sows (Johnston & Li, 2013). Health and nutrition is more easily managed in crates compared to pens. Sows in crates receive a controlled amount of feed and are easier to identify and monitor. In contrast, management of group-housed sows is more time consuming and labour intensive as animals are more difficult to locate and. Inexperience in managing animals can also cause stress to the animals (Johnston & Li, 2013).

Aggression is commonly observed in group housing systems and may cause animals stress. Stress here refers to "an environmental condition that is adverse to the well-being of an animal" (Stott 1981). Aggression may exacerbate fighting-induced injuries and cause lameness. This reduces the fitness of animals, increases the number of culls and may potentially cause sow mortality...

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