Effects of stall or small group gestation housing on the production, health and behaviour of gilts

MJ Harris, EA Pajor, AD Sorrells, SD Eicher, BT Richert, JN Marchant-Forde

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

    42 Citations (Scopus)


    The effects of housing gestating gilts in groups of four (G, n = 8) or individual stalls (S, n = 14) on production, health and behavioural time budget were evaluated. Gilts were allocated to a gestation treatment by d 7 after breeding. They were housed in a single room, floors were fully slatted with no bedding, and all conditions except for housing type were identical. Gilts were weighed and their backfat measured at wk 1 (just after moving to gestation housing), 5, 9 and 13 of pregnancy. After farrowing, litter size, sex ratio, piglet weights and mortality percentages were recorded. Skin lesions were scored using a 6-point scale every 2 wk. Gait was scored using a 6-point scale at the end of gestation. Heart rate was assessed at wk 14 to 15 after breeding. Behaviour was videotaped to collect data on body postures and ingestive behaviour for 24 h at wk 4, 6, 9 and 13 of gestation. Apart from at wk 5, when S gilts had higher backfat than G (P <0.05), G and S gilts did not differ in body weight or backfat during the study. Reproductive performance did not differ. While skin lesion scores did not differ at wk 1, by wk 13 lesion scores for several regions of the head, face, body, feet and legs were higher in G than S animals (P <0.05). There were no differences in heart rate, but gait scores at the end of pregnancy tended to be poorer in G than S gilts (P <0.1). As gestation progressed gilts spent less time standing (P <0.0001) and more time lying (P <0.05), but behavioural time budgets (percentages of time spent standing, lying, sitting, eating and drinking) of animals housed in G and S did not differ. In conclusion, there were few differences detected between gilts housed for one pregnancy in groups of four or stalls. Stalls in this study were relatively spacious, while group pens were relatively small and barren. Effects of gestation housing on sows' welfare may be cumulative, taking several parities to emerge, and care must be taken in the design and management of group housing systems to ensure that they achieve their objective of improved welfare for all group members.
    Translated title of the contributionEffects of stall or small group gestation housing on the production, health and behaviour of gilts
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171 - 179
    Number of pages9
    JournalLivestock Science
    Volume102 (1-2)
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006

    Bibliographical note

    Publisher: Elsevier


    Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of stall or small group gestation housing on the production, health and behaviour of gilts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this