Farrowing accommodation is currently provided by different variants, or designs, of the farrowing crate. The farrowing crate, which is intended to reduce piglet mortality and give the piglets good access to the sow, severely restricts her movement and activity. The welfare codes (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 1983) recommend that pigs should have ‘freedom of movement’ and ‘opportunity to exercise most normal patterns of behaviour’. There is, therefore, a need to develop farrowing facilities which allow the sows freedom of movement and permit greater activity but which also maintain or improve economic performance.
A sow which is permitted greater freedom of movement in the late stages of pregnancy would, within the pen, determine her own farrowing site. This benign approach cannot easily be reconciled to the production process which seeks to reduce uncertainty and maximise the use of resources. In this instance, the provision (creep, heat source) made for the litter. Thus it is important to be able to identify the sows’ preference for such a site and to identify features which attract the sow. This study examined some of the structural and environmental preferences for a farrowing site of sows and gilts, and examined behaviour at their chosen site.