A researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre says one of the biggest challenges in converting to loose sow house has been familiarizing the animals with the use of electronic sow feeding systems.
As the result of changes to Canada's Pig Code of Practice and growing consumer demand for pork produced in gestation stall free systems Canadian pork producers are looking at converting sow barns to loose housing or rebuilding entirely.
Success in Sow Housing will be discussed at the Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium 2014, November 18 and 19 in Saskatoon.
Dr. Jennifer Brown, a research scientist ethology at the prairie Swine Centre says most of these loose housing systems are using electronic sow feeders.
Dr. Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre:
Whether it's a new build or a conversion, one problem that I'm seeing is that producers aren't really aware up front of the time that it takes to train sows on the electronic sow feeders.
There were a couple of barns I was in in Ontario and they put in ESF systems and then had to do a lot of extra leg work in trying to train sows and gilts on the system .
Both of those barns have put in a training pen area and implemented different measures for preparing those sows.
There are other systems that require much less training of sows so it can be a lot smoother transition.
Certainly if you're prepared in advance it's going to make it a lot smoother transition.
Maple Leaf in Manitoba has implemented an ESF system in one of their barns and they have put a training area in their gilt development barn so by the time these gilts arrive at their herd they're already trained on the use of the ESF so certainly it helps to put that initial planning and be certainly aware of these factors before you go with a system.
Dr. Brown says other systems don't require as much training.
She notes the Prairie Swine Centre is compiling information on how these systems can be managed optimally on a web site scheduled for launch in early 2015.