Sow welfare and less environmental degradation, is it possible?

Is it possible to achieve both high sow welfare and lower environmental degradation? Danish researchers have recently embarked on a project to investigate the answer to that question.


How to achieve high sow welfare and low emissions?

It is not an easy task, but that does not mean that we should not address it. In the future, sows must not be confined. That is natural, the welfare of the sow is better and the piglets have unhindered access to the udder, so they can drink and grow more.

Increased emissions

Therefore, it is the welfare of the sow to let it loose, but includes the risk of faeces and urine “everywhere”, which leads to increased emissions, either because of the behaviour with the use of slap floors or because a solid floor gets dirty.


High animal welfare and low emissions

The ‘Sowemis’ project aims to address this issue. It is short for “Systems for Sows with high animal Welfare and low Emissions” and the partners in the project include the University of Aarhus, Space Systems, Jyden and SEGES Danish Pig Research Centre. This ensures diversity in the project group of engineers, polymer and material experts, emission experts, plant designers and pig experts.

It allows both addressing the material used in the slurry “carcasses” so that the least manure and urine are in contact with the air, addressing the ventilation system, addressing the design of the pens and the behaviour of the pig.

By combining the elements into one design and ensuring a clean dry solid floor compared to a slap floor, it is expected that emissions can be reduced from 1.3 to 0.66 kg NH3/m2/year.


Reduction of emission area

If the floor of the corrals is solid to a large extent (such as 60%), it reduces the area of emission. That is, if the solid floor is kept dry and clean. Reducing emissions will also affect working conditions by improving air quality on the farm, and job satisfaction by working with clean pigs and pens.

Previously, it was a challenge to keep the solid floor dry and clean, but when studying the knowledge and experience available, there are certain handles to pull, such as air movement, air speed and orientation of the pens, so the partners in the Sowemis project brainstormed and came up with actions that are expected to lead to a dry and clean solid floor.


Loose housing on a 60% solid floor

Since it is important for resources to test 10 different actions, the first approach is an approximation of the immediate impact of individual actions in a production herd where lactating sows are released into pens with 60% solid floor. The hygiene in the solid floors is evaluated once a week by the manager, taking pictures of each floor, while SEGES Danish Pig Research will score the hygiene. This is done in spring, summer, autumn and winter.

The aim is that at least 70% of the pens within one action/treatment are dry and clean during the entire lactation period. Preliminary experiences so far have indicated that more floors are dry when the air speed is increased by the use of fans.


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