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Spotlight on loose-housed sows in Danish pig units

Development and innovation have always played a key role in Denmark’s pig production. This is clearly reflected in the work that has gone into loose-housed sows. Although Danish sows already spend most of their lives in loose housing systems, efforts are ongoing to find solutions to enable all sows to be loose-housed in the farrowing unit.

In 2018, Danish pig producers are investing DKK 230 million in research into higher welfare, quality and sustainable production. In order to deliver robust solutions for even higher animal welfare standards in pig units, Denmark has entered into international partnerships where synergies are helping to create new insight.

International workshop on loose, lactating sows held in Denmark

One example of close international collaboration was April’s workshop on Loose Lactating Sows 2018 hosted by SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre.

Leading researchers, producers, representatives from international animal rights organisations and other experts were among the participants. The purpose was to define recommendations and identify knowledge gaps in the key focus areas of the future development work on loose housing for sows.

The workshop is an example of the high priority that Danish agriculture assigns to international collaboration. The American researcher, Dr. Monique Pairis-Garcia, confirms this in an article in Pig Progress “Although we did not unanimously agree on the perfect farrowing pen design, this opportunity allowed us to develop strong collaborations and utilise a holistic approach to successfully implement loose farrowing systems”.

Summing up the two-day workshop, Professor Sandra Edwards from the UK commented:

Over the sequence of workshops, now spanning more than 10 years, we have seen the participants change from a largely Northern Europe group of researchers to a true international group with participation from North America and Australasia. This is great as it allows us to discuss new challenges and opportunities in the subject area. I would therefore like to finish by thanking SEGES for developing such a good programme and productive format for the workshop, and for providing great hospitality for our meeting.

See also: Danish pig production targets even higher welfare standards

Workshop “Loose Lactating Sows 2018”

The international workshop on farrowing pens of the future was held between 30 April and 1 May at SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre and is the latest in a number of such workshops. The main results from the workshop are:

  1. International consensus and widespread recognition of Danish development work with loose-housed sows

  2. Acceptance of protective bars to protect piglets as a necessary step along the way towards the long-term objective of loose-housed sows

  3. Closer collaboration with international welfare organisations

  4. Setting out challenges and knowledge gaps

  5. Identification of cross-border future partners.

Danish additional requirements

In addition to complying with European legislation, Denmark’s pig producers have to follow a large number of requirements that exceed EU legislation:

  • Tail docking is allowed if there is documentation that tail injuries in the herd can be attributed to omission of tail docking. If tail docking is necessary, no more than half the tail may be docked and it must be carried out between the piglet’s second and fourth day of life.

  • Castration with pain relief and from 2019 also anaesthetic before castration                

  • Shower/sprinkler systems for pigs above 20 kg

  • Straw or other nesting material for pregnant sows

  • At least one third of the floor for finishers and half of the floor for piglets must be solid or drained

  • Rooting and enrichment material of natural origin for all pigs

  • Adequate number of hospital pens

  • Sows must be loose housed from weaning until they are moved to a farrowing pen. This applies to new housing constructed after 2015 and for all housing from 2035.