(for an explanation of the Coles advertised Sow Stall Free advertising follow this link )
Sow stalls have become a very contentious issue. Consumers are becoming more educated about the source of their food and animal welfare is high on the agenda. Many perceive sow stalls as cruel and unnecessary.
Major changes are being made to the size of sow stalls and the maximum time that a sow can be kept in such stalls. These requirements are spelt out in the Standards within the Model Code of Practice which are soon to become law.
Given the changes that need to happen, the expense of such modifications and the huge potential for future backlash from consumers in regard to sow stalls, it may pay to look at alternatives to secure long term benefits for your business.
Problems with stalls
- Physical disorders such as joint damage, leg weakness and urinary tract infections due to lack of exercise and confinement on hard floors.
- Chronic stress, aggressive and abnormal behaviour due to boredom from excessive periods of confinement.
Benefits of stalls
- Easier for stockpeople to individually supervise and examine animals and feed/water them
- Easier to supervise and control adult pigs efficiently
- Protection of piglets and easier supervision of sows and piglets at farrowing
- Note: these benefits are for handlers and stockpersons, not in the interest of the welfare of the pigs.
The Model Code of Practice
states that all new installations of sow stalls must meet the following dimensions;
- Sows 0.6 m x 2.2 m
- Boars 0.7 m x 2.4 m
- All existing installations must be be be brought up to this standard within 10 years of the endorsement of this code (approx 2017)
The Code also states that:
- 4.1.5 From 10 years after endorsement of the code a sow must not be confined in a stall for more than 6 weeks of any gestation period.
For pregnant sows there will be a maximum of 6 weeks (previously 16 weeks) confinement in stalls, after which they will be released into group housing situations with other sows i.e. they will be only be allowed to be closely confined until they are mated and their pregnancy is confirmed.
Alternatives to Sow Stalls
- Indoor group housing (smaller groups in large pens)
- Straw based shelters
- Free Range - outdoors
Farrowing crates were conceived in an attempt to reduce the trampling and crushing of piglets by the sow by forcing the sow to lie down slowly and carefully due to the tiny dimensions of the crate. However, data provided by Australian Pork Limited states that the current industry average for pre-weaning deaths of piglets stands at 13.1% so this figure would indicate that farrowing crates are not as efficient as we are led to believe. It is plausible then to assume that there would be little difference to mortality rates if the sows were to farrow in straw filled pens.
Just like sow stalls, farrowing crates are frowned on by consumers
A carefully designed pen, with one corner made inaccessible to the sow to form a creep area, is a cost effective way to farrow your sows. The pens must be large enough to allow the sow to turn around and lay down with plenty of room for the piglets to escape her. Straw bedding not only caters to the sows instinct to nest, it helps keep the piglets warm and dry when the litter is well maintained. The bedding will also double as a valuable fertilizer on the farm, or a source of income (compost) when the sow is moved on.
Even for the intensive industry, there are alternatives
The benefits of not using farrowing crates are further discussed here
under teeth clipping.