22 May 1998

Alternative crate takes top innovations award

FIRST prize in the farmer invention class of the innovations awards went to Claire and John Beacroft for their alternative to the conventional farrowing crate; it has cut piglet mortality on their unit by 50%.

Sixty of the 180 farrowing pens on the Beacrofts 850-sow unit have been replaced with the Chiltern Farrowing System, which they developed themselves but is made by Suffolk-based Quality Equipment.

They claim the new design improves sow welfare and enables farmers to install a commercially viable alternative to the conventional farrowing crate. It has increased weaning weight by an average 1.5kg on their Oxon farm, eradicated savaging and improved sow comfort, temperament, and welfare.

Pens measure 3m x 2m (10ft x 6ft 4in) and are made of plastic plant walling. The crate is a swing design, fixed at an angle across the pen. Sows enter the straw-bedded pen four days before farrowing and are closed into the crate for farrowing and 48 hours after. The crate is then opened up, one side folding back against the wall, while the other becomes a creep rail division. Sows can move around the pens. A large stainless steel trough enables wet or dry feeding, says Quality Equipments Glyn Baker.

Electric or hot water heat pads can be installed, plus a creep lamp to attract piglets to the warmth.

Welfare friendly Chiltern farrowing crate can cut piglet mortality, says Quality Equipments Glyn Baker.