30 May 1997

Stall houses looking good

SIMPLE conversions of stall houses costing only £10 to £30 a sow place have produced encouraging results in a study by Berkshire based Cambac JMA Research.

At the groups open day, researcher Paula Wigglesworth said that the MLC funded study aimed to establish whether welfare and productivity was compromised in simple conversions.

The study covered six farms which converted stall houses by removing stall backs and allowing pigs to run in the passageways.

The houses held the same number of sows but partitions were used to divide passageways and to create small of up to 14 sows.

Once in place the conversions were observed and monitored using video cameras which showed that sows chose to lie in stalls after feeding. This period was used to clean out pens if necessary."

"Aggression between sows – with an average of only one aggressive encounter an hour – was low and compared well with other alternatives to stalls and tethers based on small groups," she said.

Gilts adapted well to the system and productivity levels were not significantly different to levels recorded before the conversions.

"But producers should not go ahead and copy this system because there is some doubt over its compliance with MAFFs forthcoming guidelines on stalls. The bone of contention is that when sows are in simple conversions, they spend time in the backless stalls. And when they do so are they free to turn without restriction?," she said.