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Evaluation of sow stall dimensions. John Barnett Animal Welfare Science Centre, Department of Primary Industries, Werribee. Background . Stall housing is a controversial welfare issue for the pork industry Criticisms of individual (stall) housing of sows sows unable to exercise

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evaluation of sow stall dimensions

Evaluation of sow stall dimensions

John Barnett

Animal Welfare Science Centre,

Department of Primary Industries, Werribee

slide2

Background

  • Stall housing is a controversial welfare issue for the pork industry
  • Criticisms of individual (stall) housing of sows
    • sows unable to exercise
    • limited social contact between sows
    • restriction of “naturalistic” behaviours
      • eg. dunging vs lying vs feeding area
  • 40-60%(?) of gestating sows in Australia are stall housed
  • ~26%(?) of Australian sows are stall housed for 15 weeks / parity
    • concern over long-term individual housing (15 weeks) in stalls then crates
  • Code of Practice (welfare) defines minimum stall dimensions:
    • stall width = 0.6 m
    • stall length = 2.0 m (“clear space”: excludes feeder and water facilities)
slide3

Overseas recommendations on stalls

  • Stalls banned in some countries
    • Sweden, Norway(?), Finland (2006), Switzerland (2007), Netherlands (2008), Denmark (2014)
  • Restricted time in stalls
    • European Union - maximum of 4 weeks post-mating from 2013
    • New Zealand - (recommendation only at this stage) maximum of 6 weeks post-mating from 2009 and 4 weeks post-mating from 2013 (to be reviewed in 2009) (new stalls max of 4 weeks post-mating)
slide5

Objectives of Project

To determine:

1) the effects of stall dimensions on the

welfare of sows

2) if there is a minimum time in stalls that results in

improved reproduction without compromising sow

welfare

slide6

Experiments to:

Evaluate the effects of:

1) Sow stall dimensions on welfare 

2) Time in sow stalls on reproduction and welfare - commercial facility

3) Sow stall length and time in stalls on reproduction and welfare - commercial facility

Student project:

4) Effects of housing in stalls and implications for forming social relationships

slide7

Experiment 1 - Sow Stall Dimensions

  • 2 years
  • 4 replicates in time
  • 7 treatments (3 x 2 factorial) plus external, negative control
  • Factors examined:
      • Stall length (2.0 m vs 2.2 m vs 2.4 m)
      • Stall width (0.6 m vs 0.75 m)
  • External, negative control = tether stalls
  • Positions of treatments (banks of stalls) randomised between reps
  • 4 sows per bank of stalls
      • 2 non-experimental and 2 experimental sows
  • 56 experimental & 56 non-experimental sows
  • parities 2-6
slide8

Stall width

Conventional

width stall

(0.6 m wide)

Wide stall

(0.75 m wide)

slide9

Stall length

2.0, 2.2 and 2.4 m long in banks of 4

slide11

Measurements

  • 1) Sow physiology
  • Surgery to implant catheter in cephalic vein
  • at ~8 weeks into treatment
  • day-time profile of plasma cortisol concentrations
  • cortisol response to ACTH injection
  • cell-mediated immune response
  • 2) Sow lameness and live weight
  • measured at entry and exit from treatments
slide12

Measurements

  • 3) Sow behaviour post-feeding & “at rest”
  • Video recording at ~7 weeks after entry to stalls
      • level of activity
      • social behaviour
        • aggression
        • affiliative behaviour (lying together vs apart)
      • angle of turn in stalls
slide13

Results - cortisol concentrations

Width of stall Length of stall Tether

0.6 m 0.75 m2.0 m 2.2 m 2.4 m

Total cortisol conc.nMol18.4p 25.5q22.5 20.8 22.6 36.6

Free cortisol conc. nMol2.3x 3.0y2.7b 2.3a 2.9b 3.5

a,b: P<0.05; x,y: P<0.01; p,q:P<0.001

Free cortisol concentrations were lower in the 0.6 m wide stall & the 2.2 m long stall

slide14

Results - response to ACTH

Width of stallLength of stall Tether

0.6 m 0.75 m2.0 m 2.2 m 2.4 m

Total cortisol conc. 18.4p 25.5q 22.5 20.8 22.6 26.1

pre-ACTHnMol

Total cortisol conc.2.80a 3.02b2.95q 2.76p 3.02q 3.13

post-ACTH

% increase(log value)

a,b: P<0.05; p,q:P<0.001

In a chronic stress response the response to ACTH is increased

There was a lower response to ACTH in the 0.6 m wide stall and the 2.2 m long stall

slide15

Results - cell mediated immunity

Width of stallLength of stall Tether

0.6 m 0.75 m 2.0 m 2.2 m 2.4 m

Cell mediated immunity 108.4b 91.2a 91.1pq 119.1q 89.1p81.7

(% increase in skin

thickness)

a,b: P<0.05; p,q:P<0.001

The greater the % response the “better” the animal’s immune system

(higher response in 0.6 m wide stall and 2.2 m(?) long stall)

slide16

Results - Behaviour

  • Activity Post-feeding observations:
  • sows in 0.75 m wide stalls were
    • more active (86% vs 74% of time; P<0.05); and
    • took longer to lie down (101 min vs 86 min)
  • No effects of treatment on aggression
slide17

Results - Affiliative behaviour (forward index)

Index score of the preference of sows to occupy the same spatial

alignment as their neighbours during the 2-h observation period ie. heads of neighbours at the front of the stall

Width of stallLength of stall

Observation period0.6 m 0.75 m 2.0 m 2.2 m 2.4 m

Post-feeding-0.04 -0.23-0.16 -0.35 +0.11

Afternoon -0.53 -0.47-0.39 -0.80 -0.31

  • A negative index indicates that neighbouring sows were separated.
  • A positive score indicates that neighbouring sows were together.
  • A score close to zero implies the spatial alignment between neighbouring sows was random.

Sows were generally lying apart (ie. lack of head to head contact)

slide18

Results - Angle of turn (post-feeding)

Width of stallLength of stall Tether

0.6 m 0.75 m2.0 m 2.2 m 2.4 m

Mean turn angle°38p 50q48b 42a 41a36

Mean maximum angle°47x 59y61y 50x 49x 44

a,b: P<0.05; x,y: P<0.01; p,q:P<0.001

Conventional stall width (0.6 m)

Wide stall width (0.75 m)

Angle of turn greater in 0.75 m wide stall and 2.0 m long stall

slide19

Summary - Physiology

  • Welfare improved in:
  • 0.6 m wide compared to 0.75 m wide stalls
    • based on lower total and free cortisol concentrations
    • reduced responsiveness to ACTH
    • increased immunoresponsiveness
  • 2.2 m long stalls compared to 2.0 m long stalls
    • based on lower free cortisol concentrations
    • reduced responsiveness to ACTH
    • increased immunoresponsiveness (vs. 2.4 but not 2.0 m long stalls)
slide20

Summary - Behaviour

  • Behaviour data inconclusive:
  • No effect on social behaviour?
    • wider stalls allowed sows to turn more
    • 2.4 m long stalls allowed more movement
    • how are these social behaviours perceived? eg threatening
  • Affiliative behaviour
    • generally negative scores
    • indicates sows preferred to be apart at front of stall
slide21

Constraints

  • Experimental study on stall dimensions
    • stall divisions were horizontal bars
    • no positive control treatment
slide22

Overall conclusions

  • Stall Width
    • improved welfare with a stall width of 0.6 m stall Length
    • improved welfare with a stall length of 2.2 m

It is the design of the system rather than the housing

system per se that is important to welfare

slide23

Thanks

A collaborative project between:

  • Animal Welfare Science Centre / Department of Primary Industries
  • Australian Pork Limited

Thanks to:

co-researchers: Greg Cronin, Paul Hemsworth

technical staff: Lisa Newman, Samantha Borg, Bruce Schirmer

and

AWSC students at DPI Werribee