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Farrowing crates and new piglet health: a quick review

7 July 2019, at 9:00am

Suckling piglets show little difference in growth or immunocrit levels when raised in farrowing crates when compared to group housing.

A study in Porcine Health Management has shown little difference in the growth performance and immunocrit levels in suckling piglets reared with farrowing crates when compared to other housing systems. However, more research is needed to determine medium and long-term effects of the housing system on piglet development.

Using farrowing crates in production has been criticised because it limits a sow’s mobility during farrowing and lactation. For this study, researchers wanted to determine if different farrowing systems impacted the well-being and performance of suckling piglets.

In order to measure the differences between the piglets in the study, researchers focused on immunocrit, serum amino acid concentration and growth performance. Immunocrit is a useful indicator for well-being since it tells researchers if a piglet is getting enough colostrum to foster healthy development.

In this study, researchers placed 149 sows into three housing systems: farrowing crate, loose housing and group housing. After the sows farrowed, the researcher took blood samples from the piglets when they were two days old, and when they were weaned to measure their immunocrit levels.

Results indicated that piglets in group housing had lower levels of immunocrit and had lower levels of daily weight gain than piglets in other housing systems. No significant differences were found in the immunocrit or amino acid levels in the piglets who were kept in loose housing or farrowing crates. The researchers concluded that further research was needed in order to clarify if housing systems had any bearing on performance or medium-term health effects.

The full study can be read here.