The majority of sows in the United Kingdom farrow in commercial ‘crates', irrespective of the housing system in which they were kept during gestation. Consumer demand is influencing current thinking on intensive husbandry systems and this, together with approaching legislation concerning the ban on stalls and tethers, is forcing the UK pig industry to move further towards group housing for gestating sows. More research needs to be carried out to assess the effects that the close confinement afforded by farrowing crates, have on sows which have previously gestated in an open environment. The objective of this study was to determine whether the housing conditions of gestating sows had effects on their responses to farrowing conditions.
The study was carried out on twenty - two Large White X Landrace sows ranging from 3rd to 6th parity. Eleven sows housed in stalls, and eleven sows loose-housed in a large group were each observed over two farrowings; once in an open pen and once in a conventional crate, giving eleven farrowings observed in each of four treatments. Five days before the predicted farrowing date, the sows were removed from the dry sow house, weighed, washed and moved to the farrowing house. Here they were recorded, using timelapse video, from entry until farrowing had occurred. Production figures were also noted. The number of posture changes were recorded, and the average duration and total duration per posture type calculated in three separate 24 hour periods.These periods were;1) the first 24 hours in the farrowing house,2) the period between 72-48 hours before farrowing.and 3) the 24 hours preceding farrowing. Not all sows farrowed on the fifth day after entry into the farrowing house, and where Period 1 overlapped with Period 2, the Period 2 results were omitted from the analysis. The postures recorded were; Standing, Sitting/Kneeling, Lying on Udder and Lying with Udder Exposed.