Pregnant sows are kept in a variety of housing systems. Sow housing and management systems should:
- Provide every animal access to appropriate food and water;
- Promote good air quality and allow proper sanitation;
- Protect sows from environmental extremes;
- Reduce exposure to hazards or conditions that result in injuries, pain, distress, fear, or disease;
- Facilitate the observation of individual sows to assess their welfare;
- Provide sows with adequate quality and quantity of space that allows sows to assume normal postures and express normal patterns of behavior.
There are advantages and disadvantages to any sow housing system and the benefits and harms to the animals of each should be considered by weighing scientific evidence and veterinary professional judgment. For example, while gestation stall systems minimize aggression and injury, reduce competition, and allow individual feeding and nutritional management, they restrict normal behavioral expression. Group housing systems are less restrictive, but could lead to increased lameness and undesirable social behaviors, such as aggression and competition for resources (e.g., feed, water, space to lie down).
The AVMA encourages ongoing research to better understand and meet the welfare needs of gestating sows. Appropriate and ongoing training for people handling and working with pregnant sows is critical to ensure that they are able to provide and promote good welfare within the management system being used.
Welfare implications of gestation sow housing (PDF)
A comprehensive review of housing for pregnant sows (PDF)