Tuesday, March 13, 2018
We made an important change in our farrowing pens to compensate for sow behavior. As you can see in the top photo, which shows two empty pens, sows are able to come up toward the black gate and visit with each other across our center alley. This results in manure and urine being deposited too high in the pen and the slope toward the gutter-on the near side of the photos, but not visible-causes the entire pen, bedding and all to be constantly wet. We found we needed to blind the pen so that the sow could not see the animals across the center alley, but would need to stand down in the gutter end of the pen in order to visit through the fence. (This grate in the pen partition is partially visible in the lower photo)
The materials used for blinding the pen were medium weight sheet steel welded on to the pipes of the pig creep gate and primed and painted. We invested perhaps three hundred dollars plus time spent to make this changeover on all of our thirty strawed pens.
You will notice that the sow in the lower picture has given up on seeing her mate across the center alley and is concentrating her attention on the animals next to her. To encourage this behavior, we do all our feeding from the outside alley, on the floor, as well as cleaning the pen, which of course must happen there. We do distribute bedding from the center.
It is important to add that this is a good layout for farrowing as well, for the sow at farrowing wants to back into a cave like surrounding so that she may birth her pigs while keeping a watchful eye on the open area from which danger might approach, which is us, in this case, from her instinctive point of view. That deposits her piglets up into the warm well strawed area. This kind of understanding of pig behavior is important in layout of any new farrowing construction. It is easier not to fight Mother Nature.