Improving sow welfare in group housing systems - Effects of genotype and rearing strategy on gilts’ social ability, productivity and reproduction later in life

Last changed: 12 March 2018

The transition from individually stalled to group housed gestation sows is an ongoing process in the pig industry in Europe. Group housing has clear animal welfare benefits, e.g., offering sows freedom of movement and possibilities to display important species-specific behaviours. The long term objective of this study is to develop sustainable and commercially relevant rearing strategies for replacement gilts destined for group housed sow production systems.

Experience of sow group housing in Sweden, where gestation sows have been group housed since the 1980s, shows that it also carries an increased risk of damaging behaviour. In the development of group housed sow systems much effort has been put on housing design and management strategies while little attention has been placed on the genetics of the pigs or the development of their social abilities during rearing. The long term objective of this study is to develop sustainable and commercially relevant rearing strategies for replacement gilts destined for group housed sow production systems. We investigate differences between breeds selected over the last 30 years in group housed or individually stalled environments as well as effects of different social environments during rearing. We study long and short term effects on the development of gilts´ social ability, health and welfare. We also study productivity and reproductive performance in gilts’ first two parities. The results will be an important contribution to the next essential step in the development of group housed sow systems; using pigs genetically and behaviorally suitable for group housing.

Facts:

The project is financed by Formas and is conducted in SLUs research herd at Lövsta during 2017-2019.

Project group:
Anna Wallenbeck, Department of Animal Environment and Health and Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics  (Project leader)
Patricia Gullstrand, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics
Linda Keeling, Department of Animal Environment and Health


Contact

Anna Wallenbeck
Researcher at the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics;  Applied Genetics

Telephone: 018-674504
E-mail: anna.wallenbeck@slu.se

Page editor: andrus.kangro@slu.se