Temporary confinement farrowing systems

One of the alternatives to conventional farrowing crates is the use of temporary confinement crates – enclosing the sow for just seven days and then allowing freedom of movement.

Back to: Alternative and free farrowing options for pig farms

Temporary vs zero confinement

Temporary confinement systems such as the 360ﹾ Farrower™ make use of moveable restraining bars.

The sow enters 48 hours before farrowing to build a nest in the open enclosure. At farrowing, the restraining bars are left in the open position to facilitate natural nesting behaviour.

The restraining bars are moved to the closed position only after farrowing and while the piglets are at their most vulnerable.

After two to seven days, the piglets are robust and fast enough to avoid the sow, and so the restraining bars are removed, providing the sow full free movement.

Temporarily restraining the sow also keeps the stockperson safe during vaccination and weighing of piglets, treatment of the sow etc.

Examples of temporary confinement crates

  • 360ﹾ Farrower™
  • ProDromi®
  • Sow Welfare And Piglet pen – SWAP
  • OPTI-FARROW (Vissing-Agro)
  • MultiFarrow®

Key features of temporary confinement crates

The key difference between conventional systems and temporary confinement crates is the presence of a confinement system. This often makes these systems unsuitable for specific assurance standards such as RSPCA Assured, which can provide a production premium. Consider the long-term production goals and overall business plan before investing in substantial infrastructure.

The main selling point of systems such as the 360° Freedom Farrower™ is the ability to fit inside the existing footprint of conventional crates. This makes it attractive as a retrofit option, however:

  • Passageways, pits, feed lines and drinkers may not line up, costing additional expenses which must be budgeted for
  • The conventional footprint of some crates is limiting due to the increased size of sows
  • It is likely that a modification to the slurry pits will need to be made to account for bedding materials

As with zero confinement systems, the pen’s sides, bars and footprint are divided into zones for sow and piglets. Clever features such as sloping sides allow the piglets to avoid the sow as she moves around.

Slatted floors and nesting materials can prove challenging for some production systems due to the manure systems. Traditional pit systems reliant on vacuum pumps can struggle with the additional dry matter. As such the fitting of a flushing system should be factored into the total build and operation costs for free farrowing systems.

The welfare codes state that any new farrowing system must consider the use of bedding and nesting materials. This means a review of slurry handling systems and flooring should be made, regardless of farrowing system type.

The use of flushing systems has further advantages as it is recognised in the BREF as a Best Available Technique (BAT) for reducing ammonia in pig buildings. It is also the stage before manure separation that can be used in conjunction with additional technologies such as MicroAD.

Case study – ProDromi® pen system

The EUPiG case study ‘Birth management in loose farrowing systems’ describes simple management techniques that led to a reduction in piglet mortality from 25% to 15% after switching to the ProDromi® farrowing system.

A farm in Austria equipped with a ProDromi® loose farrowing system was experiencing high losses of suckling piglets, to begin with. Piglet losses during lactation averaged 25% initially, with 50% of those as a result of crushing. Since then, management changes have been key to successfully reducing piglet losses to 15%.

A ProDromi system offers 7.5 m2 of space. A corner ‘nest’ for piglets, including a heated floor, prevents crushing when the sow is loose. It allows for temporary confinement of the sow and a large creep area where the piglets can be enclosed if needed.

The following practical management changes were implemented:

  • Genetics – changed to Swiss pure large white from Austrian pure large white
  • Feeding and monitoring:
    • optimised by providing soaked linseed five days before and three days after birth
    • piglets locked in creep on day of birth while the sow is fed
    • sows and piglets monitored during feeding on days two and three after birth
  • Hygiene – troughs thoroughly cleaned
  • Enrichment and comfort:
    • jute bags and hay provided as nesting material on the floor in addition to a hay rack
    • skin drying agents and bedding material used in creep area and on the floor

Attention to animal welfare, husbandry practice and stockman safety should be given when considering a free farrowing system.

Ensure there are ample pathways around pens to allow piglet handling without the need to enter the pen.

Ensure a large enough pen to allow for suitable separation of lying and dunging areas for the sow and include partly solid flooring to improve lying comfort.