How to prepare the farrowing crate

Use this information to ensure you provide the correct environment for sows and piglets in the farrowing house.

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Why is the farrowing crate so important?

Providing the right conditions in the farrowing house helps minimise mortality, maximise piglet growth rate and maintain the sow in good condition for the next cycle.

A well-prepared and organised farrowing room will make your role easier and more productive.

As sows can be unpredictable, only competent, well-trained staff should move sows/gilts into the farrowing house.

Regulations on farrowing

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 provides specific requirements for farrowing, including:

  • Pregnant sows and gilts must be thoroughly cleaned before being placed in farrowing crates (this would imply that the sows were for some reason unduly soiled with dirt or manure)
  • In the week before the expected farrowing time, sows and gilts must be given suitable nesting material in sufficient quantity, unless it is not technically feasible for the slurry system used
  • During farrowing, an unobstructed area behind the sow or gilt must be available for the ease of natural or assisted farrowing
  • Farrowing pens where sows or gilts are kept loose must have some means of protecting the piglets, such as farrowing rails

The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010

Equipment checklist

You will need:

  • Farrowing kit
  • Sow cards
  • Min/max thermometer

Initial checklist

Before the sow/gilt is moved, you should ensure:

  • The entire room has been pressure washed, disinfected and dried
  • All extra equipment, such as scrapers and creep feeders, have been pressure washed, disinfected and dried
  • All fixtures are in good condition, including the crates, drinkers, troughs and flooring. Repair or report damage to your manager
  • All sow and piglet drinkers work and provide the relevant flow rate
  • All automatic feeders are working
  • The wiring on the creep lights has been checked
  • Lights, fans and heat mats are working effectively
  • The farrowing kit is replenished and readily available in the farrowing house
  • The room is warm, dry, draught-free and well ventilated

Preparations for farrowing

  • Move all required equipment into the farrowing room
  • Check creep lamps and heat mats are working
  • Move the sow into the crate and adjust the size for each individual animal. Ideally, the sow/gilt should be in the crate at least three days prior to farrowing
  • Place the sow ID cards (displaying the history of each sow) above/near the relevant farrowing crate
  • Ensure there is bedding in the farrowing room
  • Check that the medicines store is well stocked with the relevant drugs
  • Check availability of liquid colostrum, supplementary milk and any other additional supplementary feeds
  • Remove faeces from the crate at least once a day

When the sow or gilt shows signs of nesting or farrowing

  • Place bedding around the back of the sow to prevent draughts and provide a comfortable, dry area for newborn piglets
  • Place a heat source towards the back and/or side of each sow
  • Place the heat source in a position so that it cannot be reached by the sow and will not block your access to the sow
  • If using heat mats, turn on and check temperature with infrared thermometer
  • Place bedding in creep, switch on lamps (creep, side and or rear) and check temperatures; the surface in the creep area should be 30°C

Upgrading farrowing accommodation

Upgrading farrowing accommodation could improve performance, sow and piglet welfare and reduce the time and labour required to run the department.

By installing new farrowing crates and fine-tuning them for optimum performance, a return on investment could be achieved in less than four years from:

  • Reduced pre- and post-weaning mortality, including overlays
  • Improved weaning weight
  • Less time required to feed and clean each day
  • Reduced use of power and water
  • Increased crate numbers
  • Increased pigs/sow/year

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