The key to evaluating any system is to find the critical control points — measures that are key to understanding and improving a system — says John McGlone, animal scientist at Texas Tech University. In the farrowing area, McGlone sees two production, two anatomical and three behavioral critical control points.

Anatomical critical control points:

  • The sow’s ability of the sow to stand up and lie down comfortably in terms of the sow’s body length and width.
  • Freedom from injury — for both sows and piglets.
  • Maintenance of sow body condition to prevent future problems in terms of health, welfare and reproduction.

Production critical control points:

  • Stillborn pigs per litter; number of stillbirths per litter.
  • Preweaning mortality.

Behavioral critical control points:

  • Ability to nurse comfortably. This  applies to both sows and piglets.
  • Sow’s ability to make full postural adjustments, including turning.
  • The sow’s ability to build a functional nest.

The last two points are requirements of some specialty systems.

One of the primary ways to tell if a system is performing well in terms of economics and welfare is to assess each critical control point, says McGlone. Not all of the newer pork production systems have each critical control points evaluated, he notes. “With some new systems we can speculate on certain CCPs, and that may be adequate for now,” says McGlone.