Is it better for the sow's welfare to use a farrowing crate when she is nursing her piglets? Opinion seems to be divided, we have just started with a piggery. On a small scale, whilst waiting for the environmental impact study to be completed. We haven't used crates and had one sow who lay on 4 of her babies, whilst the latest to give birth had 13, lay on 1 and seems to push the piglets out of the way before she lays down. Someone advised us not to use crates, but to get rid of the bad mothers. What's your opinion?
Outside United States
Using farrowing crates will really help number weaned, a major economic factor in profitability. Piglets naturaly want lay next to the sow for warmth and comfort. Unfortunately sows unintentionally crush piglets when they roll or stand up. Crates will not prevent all losses but greatly improve piglet survival. As crushing is not intentional, culling does not have a high impact on reducing piglet losses. As you are still small, crates will help profitability greatly as losses of 10-20% of piglets born will be a big financial loss.
Thanks so much for your advice Andrew, I was concerened about the crates as I didn't want to cause any unbeccesary discomfort to the sow. How long would you say a sow should remain in the farrowing crate?
Most commercial operations keep a sow and her litter in a farrowing crate until weaning at four weeks of age. However many small and pasture based producers will leave a litter in for a week and then move them to small group pens. Be sue to provide heat and cover for the pigs. I have seen some producers place a railing about six inches off ground and six inches from wall or fence. Sows tend to lay near the wall or fence and the railing gives a place for the piglets to lay near the sow without getting crushed.