Pig Farrowing Pen and Pig Performance

Farrowing is the condition when a sow gives birth. Usually, the sow will be separated from her group 1 week before they are ready to produce litters, by transferring them to the pig farrowing pen. Pig farrowing pen is also called pig farrowing crate, or pig farrowing house, or pig farrowing fence. And it is a kind of specially-designed facility commonly used in pig operations. When the piglets are weaned, they and sows can be allowed to be moved from farrowing pens to loose pig housing or big roomy stalls.

Why Swine Farmers Use Pig Farrowing crate

Pig farrowing pens provide sows with comfort and piglets with safety, and easy use; maintain a cool place for the sow and warm areas for young pigs, improving the health status and well being of pigs.

—For Sows

1. The sows are housed inside by farrowing pens to protect them from the outer environment.
2. When the sow is in the farrowing crates, it is much easier for hog farmers to give the type of feed and the amount of feed that they need.
3. Sows are easier to control during vaccination due to their confinement in the crates.
4. Farrowing crates make it possible for farmer to help sows during the farrowing process if needed.
5. Perforated floors keep sows cool and comfortable and make cleaning farrowing crates easy, thus promoting pig health.piggery_

—For Piglets

1. Pig farrowing crates reduce pre-weaning mortality. Sows weigh from 400-450 pounds give birth to piglets at 2-3 pounds. Which makes it very easy that mother pigs injure baby pigs by stepping on or laying on them accidentally. Farrowing stalls help protect piglets, because the bars on the stall make the sows stand up and lie down carefully.
2. Farrowing pens have spaces available on both sides of mother sows for piglets to lay down.
3. Farrowing sows become very aggressive and unfriendly, and even attack other sows and piglets, which will cause severe injuries and death. So farrowing crates are employed to protect sows and piglets.
4. Creep feed and extra heat can be provided for piglets when the sows are kept away.

So, the option for farrowing crates should be based on:

  1. Ensuring sow comfort, freedom from injury and maintenance of body condition
  2. Low preweaning piglet losses and high weaning weights
  3. Ensuring the ability for sows to move freely and perform natural patterns of behavior

The Acceptable Assembly Parts of Pig Farrowing Pen

The pig farrowing pen consists of sow locating stall, piglets fence, piglet incubator, swine farrowing floor, feeder trough for sows and supplementary feeding trough for piglets, etc.

—Sow locating stall is to control the free activity zone and the lying manners of sows to prevent piglets from injuring by sows’ lying down or stepping on. There are curving bumping posts welded with the bottom rail to protect piglets without impacting baby pigs’ suckling behaviors.

—Feeder trough and waterer for sows are installed in front of the locating stall.

Feed intake management of the lactating sow is critical to her milking ability. Automated or self-feeding systems in the farrowing crate greatly benefit the total feed intake of the sow during lactation, which in turn has had a positive impact on the milking abilities and future reproductive capabilities of the sow.

Nipple watering systems are the most commonly used in farrowing crates for both sows and piglets, because they are easy to clean and maintain. Farrowing crates hygiene is also easier with nipple waterers. Dry-wet feeders is also can be used, and it have the water source within the feed trough, reducing water wastage. But it should be cleaned daily to avoid feed wastage or spoilage.

For piglet

—Piglet fence is to provide an activity area for baby pigs and prevent them from running out. The stall includes grid-type which helps ventilating and observing, but do not help anti-epidemic; and partition-type helps anti-epidemic, but has high investment.

—Supplementary piglet feeder and piglet waterer are installed at the back of the fence, so that piglets can defecate at the back dung area.

—piglet incubator is an important device to provide the piglets a better living environmental conditions with appropriate temperature.

—The flooring is designed to keep the pigs dry which reduces the spread of enteric diseases. Flooring for farrowing crates should be perforated or slotted, because it greatly reduce the labor required to clean pig manure, and it provide drainage of pig urine and spilled drinking water to keep floor surface dry, so that pigs can stay clean.


A Satisfactory Pig Farrowing Crate Design is Necessary

Pig farrowing crate design is of importance in the management of sows and litters. Research on farrowing crate design has shown widely varied results, but it is absolutely based on the sow and her litter’s requirements, and the pig management for pig keepers.
The critical design factors are:


The farrowing crate should be designed to protect small pigs from being crushed by the sow to reduce Piglet mortality.


1. The dimension of farrowing pen should be adjustable to accommodate very large and very small sows; the crate must be big enough for the ability of both sides of treats to the piglets, which means there must be room for piglets to suckle regardless of which side the sow lies on.
2.All the assembly parts equipped with the farrowing fence should supply comfort and contentment for sows and piglets.


Farrowing pens should be easy to keep clean. So porous or rough surface floor should be avoided to prevent the build-up of bacteria and the feet and knees abrasion of nursing pigs. Solid floors should be sloped for proper drainage. Slotted floors should be flat and smooth.


The safety and easement for pig farmers when managing sows and piglets needs to be ensured.
Farrowing crates that employ bowed bottom bars or have a finger design have been highly preferred, because they make it easier for baby pigs to nurse in a short time after birth and throughout lactation.


Choose the Right Farrowing Floor for Pigs

Farrowing floor is an important factor of environment conditions that pig farrowing pens can supply for pigs, so choosing right flooring plays a vital role in improving pig performance. The floor in the farrowing pen have to provide a surface comfortably supporting the sow and litter, is easy to clean up and sanitize, and is durable enough.
Farrowing floor is available in various materials and designs. The commonly-used flooring includes concrete and wood flooring which have been used for several years, but the majority has been made by using many kinds of materials are metal, plastic, woven wire, plastic coated metal, etc. However, the wood or concrete slats are rarely used for farrowing today.

For example:

1.Bare woven wire is used by many producers. Some heavy wire has to be flatened on the top side to make it comfortable for pigs to walk on, and necessary support should be provided adequately to minimize the results of poor performance of pigs.

2.The floor made of metal has the advantage of keeping sow cooler and being easier to clean up and to disinfect when comparing with plastic flooring. But metal floor is easy to become worn and corroded, requiring repairs and replacement regularly.

3.The flooring made of plastic coated metal reduces wear over time. But the coating can crack after long-time service, which makes this kind of floor difficult to clean and disinfect. Plastic coated metal flooring is warmer than bare metal and more comfortable for pigs. To reduce the problem of injuring sow’s feet by the broken coating, the coating of this kind of flooring has been improved.

4.The plastic flooring has been put in use for many years with various types and shapes. The plastic floors retains heat better comparing to metal floor, which offers additional comfort for piglets. However, the plastic floor can become slippery easily and harder to sanitize. Especially between floor junctions and along the underside surface.

5.The combination of metal surface flooring for the sow and plastic surface flooring for the piglet reaps the benefits of each type of floor, and it is the most successful farrowing crate floor.

The basic elements of choosing proper flooring for pigs

1.Making materials cost, and service life of flooring made of various materials
2.Effect on pig performance (Flooring must not injure the sow and piglets, and must be non-slippery in the sow zone)
3.If it is easy to handle pig manure to maintains a sanitary and dry living condition for pigs

Different pigs, different flooring. And some pig farrowing fences have a combination of floor. The woven wire, plastic coated wire and plastic flooring are very suitable for piglets, but they are not solid enough to sustain the weight, abrasion and worry of the sow; metal flooring is suitable for sows, because it has good heat conduction, but which is not so befitting for new born pigs. So, it would be better to use concrete or metal flooring in the section under the sow, and use woven wire, plastic coated wire or plastic flooring in the piglet section; or it is doable to place adiabatic rubber/plastic pads on metal flooring to protect baby pigs.

Sanitation and easy cleaning of flooring in farrowing pens are also important, which avoids an excess labor and money cost. The metal farrowing floor is the easiest one to clean, and followed by plastic floor, plastic coated metal floor, and woven wire floor