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Re-designing the farrowing environment from first principles to optimise animal welfare and economic performance. - AW0143

Confinement of the sow is a continuing welfare concern which is a focus for public concern and debate. At the present time, the majority of indoor sows (>70%) are maintained in farrowing crates, many with partly or fully slatted flooring for manure management as slurry. This places limitations on the freedom of movement of the sow and some practical constraints on the types of enrichment which can be commercially used to allow expression of nest building behaviour. Defra and others have funded research to find suitable alternatives to the farrowing crate but as yet there is no large-scale commercial up-take of a non-crate indoor farrowing system. Constraints on uptake have resulted from farmer concerns over poorer piglet survival, ease of management and cost. There is consequently a need for new approaches to develop an alternative to the farrowing crate that provides for the maximal sow and piglet welfare whilst being commercially acceptable. Such an alternative must reconcile the behavioural needs of the sow with good piglet survival and farm practicality, including acceptable capital and running cost and ease of daily management.

The objectives within this project are:
(1) to review and synthesise current scientific knowledge on sow and piglet needs and practical experience of existing non-crate farrowing systems, and use economic modelling approaches to characterise the best system prototype(s) based on this information;
(2) To consult with expert/ stakeholder groups to refine the prototype(s);
(3) To build and develop the prototype(s), testing structural and management innovations considered likely to improve their performance;
4) To scale up the final best system and test this under commercial conditions against conventional farrowing crates;
(5) To carry out an economic, environmental and trade analysis of the new system based on commercial performance and costs.

The project will be guided by a steering group containing representatives from Defra, industry, retailers, consumers and animal welfare organisations, which will facilitate transfer of results into commercial practice. Results will be disseminated through the different stakeholders represented on the project steering group, and through publication of results in both the scientific and industry press.

Defra will benefit from the provision of a critical analysis of suitability of different alternative farrowing systems, on which to base future policy decisions. The UK pig industry will benefit from the identification of commercially feasible strategies to meet possible future legislative or market requirements, and the potential for improved maternal and piglet performance in systems where welfare requirements are better satisfied.
„« Objective 1: Provide technical and economic expertise for potential adopters
„« Objective 2: Monitor and analyse performance of systems
„« Objective 3: Develop standard operating procedures and protocols for management of loose-housed indoor farrowing and lactation systems
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW0143 - Final Report - Phase 1   (826k)
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW0143 - Final Report - Phase 2   (892k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2015

Cost: £873,421
Contractor / Funded Organisations
SAC Commercial Ltd, University - Newcastle
Animal Welfare              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare