This example of a group housed lactating system for sows and their litters is designed by researchers from Wageningen UR Livestock Research and the Adaptation Physiology Group of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The system has been tested at the Swine Innovation Centre in Sterksel from 2012.
The system allows sows to remain grouped during lactation. Sows are familiar with each other from their gestation group. The system can be managed to allow for lactational oestrus and a later weaning age for piglets (view our recommendations for managing group lactation systems).
The system has:
- Individual farrowing pens: sows have free access to these individual pens with a heated creep box for the piglets. For more information about how sows and piglets are managed in these individual farrowing pens please view our recommendations for managing group lactation system.
- A communal area with solid flooring for resting and exploration.
- A communal feeding area: sows are floor-fed so piglets can learn how to eat from the sows and they have free access to both sow feed and piglet creep feed.
- A dunging and urinating area.
- An intermittent suckling area: a covered outdoor area where sows are housed for 10 h/day from 4 weeks to manage lactational oestrus.
The sow is given:
- Freedom of movement at all times
- Opportunity to build a nest
- Undisturbed nest-site
- Opportunity to dung/urinate away from nest-site and resting areas
- Opportunity to feed away from dunging and resting areas
- Opportunity to physically contact other sows
- Opportunity to withdraw from piglets
- Contact with a boar in an intermittent suckling outdoor area
- Opportunity for gradual weaning
- Enrichment material in addition to substrate for nest-building
The piglets are given:
- Creep box for thermal comfort
- Opportunity to mix with litters pre-weaning and to contact different sows
- Opportunity to be fully weaned at a later age
- Opportunity to eat together with the sows
- Opportunity to dung/urinate away from resting areas
- Enrichment material (recommended that a small amount of straw is provided in farrowing pens, ropes and hessian sacks in communal area and outdoor area)
The staff are assured:
- Easy access to piglets through creep boxes from the corridor
- Easy provision of feed from the corridor in the communal area
- Easy access to the farrowing pens via a lower part in the fence
- Ability to separate sow(s) and piglets by using fences or individual farrowing pens
How to build a group lactation system
This system has been trialled at the Swine Innovation Centre in Sterksel since 2012 and is being developed (in different versions) for commercial use.
View the Group System Floorplan.
To learn more about Group Lactation Systems please contact:
Dr Carola van der Peet-Schwering: Carola.Vanderpeet@wur.nl