At the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), we operate an alternative swine housing system that includes a bedded group-gestation barn with individual feeding stalls, an indoor bedded barn with individual feeding stalls for gilts, a bedded group-farrowing barn and two bedded hoop barns for growing and finishing pigs.
The WCROC alternative swine system includes a deep-bed, group-housed farrowing barn, a hoop barn for the gestation and breeding of sows, and two hoop barns for finishing pigs. Unlike modern confinement swine farrow-to-finish operations which tend to be very consistent in design and size of facilities, alternative swine systems can be extremely variable. Some alternative systems might use a combination of conventional and alternative housing systems. The one consistent aspect of most alternative swine-production systems is the use of bedding materials (straw, corn stalks, etc.) for pigs in all stages of production. Hoop barns are large “Quonset type” structures that house pigs on bedding material and are commonly used in alternative systems. Information gathered in the WCROC alternative swine facilities will be directly applicable to producers using alternative systems on a commercial basis.
Since gestation stalls have been phased out in the European Union (EU) and several of the United States, more gestating sows are housed in group pens. To help producers transition from gestation stalls to group housing, we investigate and identify the best practices of converting gestation stalls to group pens. In addition, developing management strategies for group-housed gestating sows is always the focus of our research.
- How much floor space do group housed sows need?
- Retrofitting gestation stalls to group housing – A field study on performance and economics.
- Management options for gestating sows, group-housed in an electronic sow feeder system (.pdf)
- Research on group housing for sows (.pdf)
Bedded, group-farrowing housing
One major challenge to housing sows in alternative farrowing systems is piglet mortality. We investigate the causes of piglet mortality and examine solutions to the problem in our group-farrowing system.
Hoop barns for growing and finishing pigs
In order to identify advantages and disadvantages to pigs housed in hoop barns, we compared growth performance, carcass quality and the welfare of pigs housed in hoop barns with pigs housed in confinement barns. We also examine the influence of alternative feed on growth performance and production profit of pigs raised in hoop barns.
Capital-intensive housing systems
Producers can sometimes be presented with unique challenges when it comes to raising pigs in capital-intensive housing systems, where significant financial resources are needed in order to maintain a controlled environment. Producers must mitigate issues of floor space allowance, controlled temperature, and odor control.
- Do old floor space allowances apply to modern finishing pigs marketed at 300 lb? (.pdf)
- Group sow housing: Practical considerations
For more information on swine housing research at the WCROC, contact Yuzhi Li.