The use of farrowing crates for sows

The use of farrowing crates for sows

Policy type: Position statement
Reference
: 7a

Status
: Current
Date ratified
: 20 March 2013

The New Zealand Veterinary Associaiton (NZVA) supports the continued use of farrowing crates in the New Zealand pig industry provided active research is maintained to improve crate design and/or provide practical alternatives.

Explanation

  1. The term “farrowing pen” includes both the farrowing crate in which the sow is confined and the piglet creep area.
  2. Individual housing of farrowing and lactating sows in both indoor and outdoor systems confers the following advantages:
    a. Protected piglet creep area resulting in reduced mortality from crushing by the sow.
    b. Improved attention to individual feeding requirements for both sows and piglets.
    c. Reduction in temperature variation and providing temperatures more appropriate to mother and offspring.
    d. More individual attention and the ability to observe sows and piglets more closely for injuries etc.
    e. Improved disease control for sow and piglet.
    f. A safer environment for staff and piglets when vaccinating sows or tailing piglets etc.
    g. Improved chance of successful fostering.
  3. Outdoor farming is a significant sector in NZ pig farming but where farrowing crates are not used in these systems, pre-weaning mortality is significantly higher than in herds which do use them.
  4. The Pig Veterinary Society of NZVA, in association with the New Zealand Pork Industry Board, actively reviews international literature relevant to housing of pigs and will promote the modification of individual crates when proven better designs are found.

Guidelines

  1. Concern for the welfare of the animal is paramount in establishing the suitability of any housing system for enclosing sows. This must obviously involve the piglets, which are especially vulnerable to death by crushing and chilling within the first 48 hours of life. Well-designed, constructed and maintained farrowing crates minimise crushing and chilling.
  2. The NZVA supports the minimum standards and recommendations for best practice found within the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee ‘Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010’ with regard to the nutritional and environmental requirements of the sow and piglets within the farrowing pen, as well as the management of interactions between sow and piglets.
  3. All piggery staff involved in the farrowing unit must be properly aware of potential disadvantages of the systems employed on their farm and take steps to ensure these are minimised. They should be aware of nutritional and environmental requirements of the groups of animals under their care.
  4. The crates used should allow the sow freedom from obvious points of injury, access to sufficient food and ad lib water, have acceptable flooring and be maintained to an adequate standard of repair.
  5. Crates should be cleaned and disinfected adequately prior to use. Faecal contamination of the pen should be minimised to reduce the potential for piglet infections and sow vaginitis.
  6. Flooring used in crates should be of material that will minimise trauma to the sow and piglet. Ideally this should be non-slip to allow the sow to move while reducing the possibility of causing leg problems to herself or injuring the piglets when lying down.
  7. The ‘Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010’ Minimum Standard 11(h) states that pigs must not be restrained by tethering.

References

Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010