Zero confinement farrowing systems

Zero confinement pens use zoning spaces to allow the sow to farrow and lactate without the need for confinement. Below, we outline the advantages and limitations of this system.

Back to: Alternative and free farrowing options for pig farms

Key features of zero confinement pen systems

Without a specific enclosure mechanism for the sow, zero confinement systems, such as PigSAFE, make use of:

  • Clear zoning areas for sow and piglets, including enclosed creep, nesting, feeding and dunging areas
  • Varied floor types to aid nesting, comfort and thermal preferences
  • Clever pen design, such as gate systems, to allow piglets increased access for enrichment
  • Sloping walls to allow piglets to escape laying sows, farrowing bars to allow raceways and clear escape routes for piglets

Increasingly, there is a move from the slatted floors and footprints that enable retrofit directly into conventional systems to a more bespoke installation. This limits the ability to retrofit these pen designs into existing buildings. However, retrofit situations do exist and can be viewed at Newcastle Universities Cockle Park facility.

The use of solid floors and straws with scrape through for dunging areas also changes the farm’s labour and machinery requirements.

Few assurance standards specify the acceptance of specific pen types. For example, the RSPCA Assured pig standards state that blanket permission for the use of specific free farrowing crates should not be expected. Inspection and dialogue with the RSPCA is expected, however, as they take a holistic view of the entire farrowing management before making a decision.

As such, you should consult your assurance body before making any substantial investment. Equally, consultation with the processor should be sought to ensure a premium is available on the sale of finished pigs from such systems to warrant the investment.

PigSAFE: AGE Indoor Technologies for poultry and pigs

Examples of zero confinement systems

  • Piglet and Sow Alternative Farrowing Environment (PigSAFE)
  • Danish FF (Free Farrower)
  • Swiss FF
  • Comfort Pen
  • WelCon System
  • SimplePens

View a list of manufacturers and suppliers of alternative farrowing accommodation