Housing of pregnant sows in loose and confined systems--a field study 1. Vulva and body lesions, culling reasons and production results.
A field study was carried out in 18 herds with loose housing of pregnant sows (loose herds) and in 18 herds with tethered or stalled pregnant sows (confined herds). Three of the loose herds were excluded due to different kind of flooring from the rest of the herds. The remaining 15 herds had partly slatted concrete floors and electronic sow feeding. The frequencies of sows with vulva and body lesions, thin sows as well as the culling reasons and production results were used as animal welfare indicators for the herds. Vulva lesions were found only in the loose herds and the mean prevalence proportion of sows with lesions within these herds was 15.2%. All vulva lesions observed in this study seemed to be caused by biting. The relative risk of vulva lesions was 2.6 times higher in the loose herds with no roughage feeding as compared to loose herds with appetite feeding of roughage. The sows in the loose herds, that had a feeding station with a mechanical hind gate had 1.8 greater risk of vulva lesions than sows in the loose herds that used a feeding station with an electronic gate. The mean prevalence proportion of sows with body lesions was 13.1% in the loose herds and 4.0% in the confined herds. Aggression between sows seemed to be the main cause of body lesions in the loose herds, while decubitus ulcers on the shoulders were the main cause of body lesions in the confined herds. Sows in loose herds that were not fed additional roughage feeding had 1.7 times greater risk of body lesions than sows in herds that used additional roughage feeding. The main culling reasons and production results were similar in the loose and confined herds. This study showed that there were welfare problems both in confined and loose herds, however, with improved management, many of the welfare problems associated with loose housing can be reduced.
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