In a new study reported in the Journal of Animal Science, researchers in Europe studied how different types of flooring affect claw and limb lesions, locomotion and flooring cleanliness.
According to researchers with University College Dublin (UCD) in Ireland, flooring is one of the main factors in production systems that cause locomotory problems in swine. Locomotory problems can be caused by joint injuries or circulatory problems in the legs and feet.
Julia Calderon-Diaz, a doctoral candidate at UCD, said pregnant sows placed on cushioned flooring have a lower risk of becoming lame compared with sows placed on concrete.
In this experiment, the researchers studied the effects of two types of flooring on 164 pregnant gilts. The gilts were divided into two groups: one was housed on concrete slatted floors, while the other group was housed on concrete slatted floors covered with rubber slat mats.
The researchers periodically scored locomotion and claw and limb lesions of the replacement gilts and flooring cleanliness. The replacement gilts were observed from the time they were bred until 110 days into their pregnancy.
UCD lecturer Dr. Alan Fahey said the gilts were studied during two pregnancies. The results were similar during both pregnancies: Sows housed on rubber mats had a reduced risk of swelling and wounds on the limbs. However, the rubber mats increased the risk of sole and heel lesions.
Calderon-Diaz said these lesions were possibly caused by slurry accumulation over the rubber mats. She added that the lesions were not severe and could be addressed through modifications to the mats.
In the European Union, pregnant sows must be group housed four weeks after breeding until one week before farrowing.