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Gestation and Farrowing Crates for Pigs

Some pork farms use gestation and farrowing crates or stalls for pregnant sows. How do these work? What effects do they have on the mother and piglets?

1. What is a gestation crate?

Gestation crates are individual housing for sows during the time of pregnancy.

2. Why are gestation crates used?

Gestation crates are used so that individual sows can be fed relative to their individual needs and to reduce the impact of aggressive behaviors seen in group housing (i.e., many pregnant sows together in an open pen).

3. What is a farrowing crate?farrowing crate

A farrowing crate is a penning system which has an area for the sow and areas for the pigs (see picture to the right).

4. Why are farrowing crates used?

Farrowing crates have been designed to reduce the number of pigs which are accidentally laid or stepped on by the sow.  Also, farrowing crates provide a cooler area for the sow and warmer areas for the young pigs.  The flooring is designed to keep the pigs dry which reduces the spread of enteric diseases. Farrowing crates also allow the pork producer to assist in the birth process of pigs.

5. Do gestation crates or farrowing crates negatively impact pig health or well-being?

Research has found that both gestation crates and group housing systems have positive and negative effects on animal well being.

In terms of gestation crates, they can reduce aggressive behaviors and allow for more precise individual feeding management of sows.

Farrowing crates reduce preweaning mortality - and provide a warm dry environment for the pigs which improves their health status and well being.

Have any questions?  Submit them to us here.

Allan Schinckel, PhD
Dept. of Animal Sciences


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