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May 17, 2011

A Tale Of Two Sows

One sow in our current farrowing batch is different. She was incorrectly identified as open, or not pregnant, and placed back in the breeding barn, where she spent 5 weeks on the eligible female list, then a few weeks on the "guess we need to cull her list", and then was finaly placed upon the "I made a mistake she is pregnant after all list". She spent most of this time in a large pen with 5 to 7 other sows, fed in a group. The other 19 sows in her farrowing batch spent their gestation period in our individual gestation crates, being fed individually.

This is her, sow 929.

She is in good condition, maybe a lttle thinner than the other sows, but not much.
This is sow 937. She spent her gestation in an individual crate. She is in very good condition. These two sows farrowed the same day, and each had 12 pigs. But....
....929's pigs were tiny. The smallest only weighed 19 ounces. Her average was less than 2 lbs per pig.
This is a pig from her litter.
937's pigs were much larger, averaging over 3.6 lbs each, with little variation. Here is one of her pigs.
Here is the rest of 937's litter.

These two sows are the same genetic line, and nearly the same age. Would this always happen? Probably not. Some sows are better at fending for themselves in a group housing situation, but sow 929 did not get quite enough to eat in her group. She was likely less aggressive when feeding time came, and always was a little short, though not enough to hurt her condition noticably. Her pigs are very much smaller and weaker, which can hurt their survivability. With gestation crates, we can tailor each sows daily meal to their individual specific needs, and eliminate the problem of more aggressive sows chasing the more timid ones away from the feed at feeding time. And those aggressive sows always get too fat as well. We went to gestation crates from loose group housing to improve the health and nutrition of our animals, which they did, and sow 929's pigs would have likely been larger at birth if she had been housed in one.

13 comments :

  1. Sounds like my goats. "Is she pregnant?" "Oh yea, she's def. pregnant." "No, she's fat." "Oh look, babies! Oops"

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  2. I was going to say it sounds like my goats--always having to make sure everyone gets enough without some getting too fat. Always a challenge. Hope her babies do well now that they have that individual care.

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  3. i hope her babies will survive and grow strong. :(

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  4. Great demonstration of why crates are necessary instead of cruel. The method behind the "madness" that non-farm folks fail to understand - or fail to acknowledge.

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  5. Great post! Thanks for showing us the importance of having sows in the gestation crates - it was very interesting to see the difference between the two!

    Sarah from The House That Ag Built

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  6. Awesome way to explain why you do what you do! You Rock!

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  7. This is a powerful illustration for the "why" of a management practice that is often misinterpreted by people who may have good intentions, but just don't understand. Thanks for an "eyes-on" explanation of the importance of gestation crates for the health and safety of the animals you care for!

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  8. Oh I love baby pigs. I remember raising them well.Great explanation. B

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  9. I agree with Kim and Corinne. Thank you for sharing. I hope others outside the Ag Industry take notice to this post as well.

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  10. Excellent job on this post! A perfect example of how individualized care is so important, and vital in ag. Thank you for sharing - fantastic photos!

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  11. Thank you so much for the sow education! Great explanation and very interesting.

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  12. this is always so amazing to me- since I did not grow up with farm animals. I love cows too! Not sure how you can do it- I would want to keep them all but I guess it's part of the business! I like the crate idea :)

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