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Group Housing of Gestating Sows from 2013

by 5m Editor
18 November 2011, at 12:00am

The requirements for housing sows and gilts during pregnancy after stalls are banned in the EU from 2013 are reviewed in the 2010 annual report from the Danish Pig Research Centre.


Group-housing before 2013

By 1 January 2013, all facilities for gestating sows and gilts must be designed for group-housing. Accommodating gilts and gestating sows in stalls will be legal until four weeks after service.

It is estimated that approximately 30 per cent of the place units for gestating sows still need converting from stalls to group housing. Though time is running out, satisfactory production results and a good level of animal welfare must be obtainable with the design of future facilities.

Renovation or New Buildings?

In many cases, existing facilities with stalls can be converted to group-housing within the current framework. However, each case must be reviewed by relevant professionals (For more information, go to our previous article: click here).

New buildings are often chosen when a pig producer wishes to increase the number of sows in his production.

Feeding Principles

Whether existing buildings are renovated or new ones built, it is essential to opt for a feeding principle and pen lay-out in which individual feeding of the sows is possible to be able to manage body condition.

Below, the challenges of different feeding principles are summarised.

Electronic sow feeding

All sows must be assured of access to a feeding station and enough time to eat their ration; each station should therefore serve a maximum of 65 sows (with more than one station per pen). Place the stations in locations with free access.

Gilts and sows can be fed individually with minimum four feed curves.

In stable groups, hierarchy will only have to be formed once and there will therefore be no need for separation of sows. Separation areas must allow for minimum two square metres per sow. Alternatively, spray-mark sows to be moved. Young gilts must be trained in a separate training pen designed as the gestation pens.

Feeding/resting stalls


Example of a facility with stalls converted to group-housing and electronic sow feeding. The lying area has a large nesting box with bedding.


The challenge to floor feeding and feeding in long troughs is to ensure that the individual sow is able to eat the entire feed ration without stress.

The new batch of sows transferred each week should be distributed on several pens according to body condition so that the sows can be fed almost individually. It may also be necessary to feed some sows extra feed individually when liquid feed is used.

The stalls must comply with design recommendations (minimum 65cm wide (inside measurements) and minimum 210cm long (inside measurements from back of the trough)). The back gate guarantees that the sows can eat and rest in safety.

Establish drained floor in connection with the lying area, and fully slatted floor with sprinkling in the dunging area.

Floor feeding and long troughs

In some feeding principles, the sows are not fed individually, and they are therefore not recommended. If these principles are used, do not transfer sows to the pen until four weeks after service. Upon transfer, sort the sows into two or three groups according to body condition to minimise the risk of uneven body condition scores.

The recommended group size is approximately 15 sows. Approximately 10 per cent additional place units are required for sows that need to be moved due to injuries or poor body condition score.

Feed the sows once a day when all sows in the pen are assured of access to the feed.

Particular for floor feeding:

  • Feed is spread across the solid floor (1.3 square metres per sow)
  • The feeders must contain the entire feed ration
  • Meal (and not pellets) is recommended as sows take longer to eat meal.

Particular for liquid feeding in long troughs:

  • Minimum 50cm trough space per sow
  • The trough must hold the entire feed ration
  • If there are two troughs in the pen, feed in both ‘at the same time’.

November 2011