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Innovation ensures even higher welfare standards

Loose-housed nursing sows are an issue of great interest throughout Europe. The Danish pig industry is actively working to find solutions that are viable for pig producers, sows and piglets.

The Danish Agriculture and Food Council (DAFC) Pig Production wishes to see more loose-housed sows in the farrowing unit. SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre, DAFC’s Innovation and Knowledge department, has initiated a number of projects to accelerate progress in this area.

In collaboration with two Danish housing system manufacturers, SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre has produced a number of prototypes for new pens for loose-housed sows. The prototypes are currently being trialled with a number of pig producers.

"We have to keep developing our housing units and pen systems. Danish pig producers have already established a high standard of animal welfare. But in the Stone Age, our ancestors did not stop using stones because they ran out of them. They stopped because of the developments taking place,” says Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen, who is SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre’s expert in loose housing systems for sows.

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Challenges of loose housing
Loose housing systems for sows are not without their challenges. There is, for instance, a common understanding of the need for sows to remain in pens for a short time after farrowing to prevent their piglets from being crushed.

"There is no legislation on whether farrowing rails may be used in pens for loose-housed nursing sows. However, with regard to the government-backed welfare label in Denmark, it has been agreed that producers of ʻone and two-heartʼ pigs may use farrowing rails for a short period after farrowing. The option to use farrowing rails is a balance between two animal welfare considerations: to prevent piglets being crushed versus the sow’s greater freedom of movement,” says Vivi Aarestrup Moustsen.

Read more about the government-backed animal welfare label