John Gadd reacts to: Pigs are habitual animals and do not mind gestation crates?
David`s remarks are on the ball.
The sows probably mind very much if the crates are too small. Our sows are
larger these days with the gilts bred heavier in order to defend that
first-litter sow from a large and voracious first litter forcing her into a
damaging condition loss at the end of lactation, which can affect her
performance in the second parity - or even beyond. Prof. Colin Whittemore called
it the `Nose-Dive` many years ago.
They probably mind very much if the flooring is harsh or worn, resulting in
lameness and body sores. Lameness is the second commonest cause of premature
culling after infertility.
They probably mind very much if the atmosphere is foul due to inadequate or
poorly-directed ventilation, commonly seen in cold countries in winter, and when
the slurry is allowed to accumulate only a few centimetres below the slats at
Conversely, they must also mind very much when those breezy gestation sheds
in the tropics expose a row of sows to sunburn on their rears due to
insufficient eaves overhang or the lack of a precautionary shade curtain.
If only sows could speak. Then they`d tell us what they minded!
Meanwhile, managed as many are these days, they tell us indirectly in smaller
and less viable litters, a shorter productive life, lowered immune response,
more veterinary attention and higher labour costs.
There is not much wrong with the gestation crate designed, maintained and
managed properly. But only a third of them are!
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