Animal welfare activists claim that housing sows in stalls during pregnancy negatively effect their behavior and well-being of the animals. Producers contend that they are better able to control body condition and monitor an individual animal’s health using stalls.

While research in this area has increased, there’s still not adequate data to evaluate alternative-housing systems and their effect on a sow’s or gilt’s reproductive performance and well-being.

Research at the Southern Research and Outreach Center in Waseca, Minn., is attempting to answer some of those questions by comparing sows placed in individual gestation stalls to those housed in group situations with electronic feeding stations. It’s believed that electronic feeding stations can allow controlled feed intake on an individual basis within a group-pen system.

In one study, sow records from a three-year period were used to evaluate the two housing systems. Group pens held 50 to 60 sows each. When comparing the two systems, sow culling rate was higher in stalls, while mortality rates were greater in the group pens. What’s more, a greater proportion of sows were removed for feet and leg problems when housed in group pens versus stalls.

Follow-up research on this study is ongoing. For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/7m9p9