sows resting in group pen Jevtic/iStock/Thinkstock

Tri-state conference to troubleshoot sow housing hurdles

Topics to focus on management strategies for transitioning.

Sow housing is still a very hot topic in the swine industry as it is estimated that only 24% of the U.S. sow herd has transitioned to open-pen gestation.

However, the transition in housing is only half the battle. Understanding how to care for and manage animals in a group system is just as important and comes with challenges.

To address this topic, The Ohio State University, Michigan State University and Purdue University will host The Tri-State Sow Housing Conference on Feb. 13 in Columbus, Ohio.

The conference will focus on management strategies for group housing systems and will provide the educational support and resources for swine producers to be successful. Speakers lined up for the full-day educational event come from a variety of backgrounds and will cover a variety of topics, including managing aggression and lameness in group housing systems and practical tips for constructing new or retrofitted facilities.

One particular challenge to be address is sow fighting. Pregnant pigs will chase and bite each other on the neck, head and ears and steal food from each other.

“We haven’t figured out a way to eliminate the fighting,” said Monique Pairis-Garcia, an assistant professor of animal sciences in The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural & Environmental Sciences.

The fighting typically simmers down after two days, at least among pregnant pigs, once they figure out who’s the boss and what the hierarchy is. If any new pigs are added, however, the fighting begins again. This dynamic is a tricky one for hog farmers to contend with, and this topic, as well as others associated with group housing, will be discussed at the conference.

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