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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Effects of Stall Or Small Group Gestation Housing on the Production, Health and Behavior of Gilts

Authors
item Harris, M - U. BRISTOL, UK
item Pajor, E - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Sorrells, A - U. CAL. SAN FRANCISCO
item Eicher, Susan
item Richert, B - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Marchant-Forde, Jeremy

Submitted to: Livestock Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 6, 2006
Publication Date: July 20, 2006
Citation: Harris, M.J., Pajor, E.A., Sorrells, A.D., Eicher, S.D., Richert, B.T., Marchant Forde, J.N. 2006. Effects of stall or small group gestation housing on the production, health and behavior of gilts. Livestock Production Science. 102:171-179.

Interpretive Summary: Housing pregnant sows in stalls is a controversial practice. Few studies have directly compared the effects of gestation stalls and group housing, using a multidisciplinary approach. The effects of housing gestating gilts for one parity in groups of four (n=8) or individual stalls (n=14) on production, health and behavioral time budget were evaluated. All conditions, except for housing type, were identical for the two systems. Animals were limit-fed once per day. Floors were fully slatted with no bedding. Gilts were weighed and their backfat measured on d 7, 35, 63 and 91 of gestation. Litter size, sex ratio, piglet weights and mortality percentages were recorded. Skin lesions were scored using a 6-point scale every 2 wk. Gait was scored using a 6-point scale when gilts were transferred to the farrowing room. Behavior was videotaped for 24 h at wk 4, 6, 9 and 13 of gestation. Group- and stall-housed housed gilts did not differ in body weight or backfat during the study. Reproductive performance did not differ between gilts that had gestated in groups and those that had gestated in stalls. There were no differences in skin lesion scores between gilts in the two housing systems on d 7, but by d 91 lesion scores for several regions of the head, face, body, feet and legs were significantly higher in group-housed than stall-housed animals. There were no differences in cardiovascular fitness, but gait scores tended to be poorer in group-housed than stall-housed gilts. As gestation progressed, gilts spent less time standing and more time lying, but behavioral time budgets (percentages of time spent standing, lying, sitting, eating and drinking) of animals housed in groups and stalls did not differ. In summary, while gilts grouped for one gestation showed more skin injuries and poorer gait scores than stalled gilts there were no differences in production, cardiovascular fitness or behavioral time budget. These data will be useful in establishing welfare standards for swine gestation housing.

Technical Abstract: Housing pregnant sows in stalls is a controversial practice. Few studies have directly compared the effects of gestation stalls and group housing, using a multidisciplinary approach. The effects of housing gestating gilts for one parity in groups of four (n=8) or individual stalls (n=14) on production, health and behavioral time budget were evaluated. All conditions, except for housing type, were identical for the two systems. Animals were limit-fed once per day. Floors were fully slatted with no bedding. Gilts were weighed and their backfat measured on d 7, 35, 63 and 91 of gestation. Litter size, sex ratio, piglet weights and mortality percentages were recorded. Skin lesions were scored using a 6-point scale every 2 wk. Gait was scored using a 6-point scale when gilts were transferred to the farrowing room. Behavior was videotaped for 24 h at wk 4, 6, 9 and 13 of gestation. Group- and stall-housed housed gilts did not differ in body weight or backfat during the study. Reproductive performance did not differ between gilts that had gestated in groups and those that had gestated in stalls. There were no differences in skin lesion scores between gilts in the two housing systems on d 7, but by d 91 lesion scores for several regions of the head, face, body, feet and legs were significantly higher in group-housed than stall-housed animals (P<0.05). There were no differences in cardiovascular fitness, but gait scores tended to be poorer in group-housed than stall-housed gilts (P<0.1). As gestation progressed, gilts spent less time standing (P<0.0001) and more time lying (P<0.05), but behavioral time budgets (percentages of time spent standing, lying, sitting, eating and drinking) of animals housed in groups and stalls did not differ. In summary, while gilts grouped for one gestation showed more skin injuries and poorer gait scores than stalled gilts there were no differences in production, cardiovascular fitness or behavioral time budget.

Last Modified: 4/16/2014
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