Flexible farrowing case studies

In recognition of the move towards using alternative farrowing systems, four UK pig producers will be sharing what they have learnt from using different types of farrowing systems on their units. The case studies will provide an analysis of their performance, costs, and their views on managing the different systems.


The European Citizen Initiative ‘End the Cage Age’ was launched in 2018. As a result, the European Commission announced that “by the end of 2023, a legislative proposal to phase out, and finally prohibit” the use of cage systems for all animals mentioned in the Initiative, would be in place, and that they would assess the feasibility of working towards the proposed legislation entering into force from 2027.

Alongside this, in 2020, Defra published an outline for the Codes of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs, and most recently in the Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, it refers to reducing sow confinement during farrowing and a shift to less confined alternative systems was to be made a priority for UK pig producers.

Prior to these directives, a group of UK pig producers had recognised that there was a movement towards using alternative farrowing systems in several European countries and had already installed temporary confinement or free farrowing pens, with the aim of improving sow welfare and reducing piglet mortality rates.

Read more about transitioning to alternative farrowing systems and the differences between them

Below, we will be sharing the experience of four different pig producers and the farrowing systems they introduced on their units; some producers trialled more than one system.
Systems trialled:

  • FarrOPEN
  • Big Dutchman free-movement
  • Nijenkamp Multifarrow
  • Piglet and Sow Alternative Farrowing Environment (PigSAFE)
  • 360° Freedom Farrower

Each farm has been numbered one to four and the names of those quoted in the case studies removed to protect their anonymity.

Farm 1: FarrOPEN

An investment was made to renew the farrowing accommodation for the 2,000-place sow breeding herd. The production system, now housed in a temporary confinement system with a 6m2 pen, is a weekly batch-farrowing system, with a target of 90 farrowings per week. The system was selected as piglet mortality can often be higher in fully unconfined systems.

Read the FarrOPEN farm case study

Further case studies will be shared in due course.

Further information

If you have any questions about this topic, get in touch with Zanita Markham: zanita.markham@ahdb.org.uk 

Explore alternative and free farrowing options for pig farms