Sows can be kept in different types of housing during pregnancy.
Three main categories of housing are discussed below, along with their key advantages and disadvantages in relation to sow welfare.
While the general categories of gestation stall, group pen, and free-range system can be identified, there is considerable variation within each of these categories. Welfare outcomes are not only a product of interactions between housing type and sow, but involve many other factors, such as stockmanship, genetics, sows’ previous experience, feeding practices, flooring and bedding types, and climate.
The use of gestation stalls has become increasingly controversial.1,2 Legislative and ballot initiatives in some U.S. states have limited their use.
In addition, current or scheduled bans on gestation stall use are in place in many countries although the implementation of those bans is uneven.3 Some major foodservice companies, distributors and retailers have indicated their intent to purchase from producers who do not use gestation stalls. Consumer acceptance of the gestation stall, as demonstrated by responses to surveys and during focus groups, is often found to be lower ith preference shown for products from nongestation stall systems.
However, it is unclear how well consumer intent translates to purchasing behavior.