22 May 1998

No-bedding stress

FARROWING crates without bedding restrict the sows nesting behaviour and increase her stress levels, according to SAC research.

A study compared the welfare of sows in farrowing crates without straw with that of sows in straw-bedded pens during the five days pre-farrowing, and in particular during 24 hours before farrowing.

SACs Susan Jarvis said crated animals had higher blood cortisol levels, which indicated stress. "Cortisol levels were higher for animals in crates, especially during the period of peak activity, eight to 12 hours pre-farrowing."

But once farrowing began, the sows environment did not influence stress levels.