Pig Farrowing Crate: How To Design & Its Dimensions

Pigs are highly intelligent and social animals with complex needs, but in most countries around the world, their confinement in crates is standard practice. They cannot fulfill their biological needs for physical activity, nesting, lying, or grooming their young. The farrowing crate is a metal enclosure in which sows used for breeding are kept shortly before and after parturition in order to keep their piglets safe. Pig Farrowing crates are used in most pig farms today. For some reason, people often refuse to hear about them. Most keep them out of mind, without even questioning their use. The only reason the subject comes up is because of animal welfare campaigners who put images of their use on TV and the internet, which then triggers strong reactions from the general public.

The farrowing crate is the core instrument of factory farming. It is used by almost all pig farms in Britain and worldwide, and was invented by industry at the end of the 1970s to increase both productivity (measured in pigs produced per sow per year) and profitability. Farmers who use them report that their average productivity has risen by 5-6 pigs since they started using them, while mortality rates have reduced. But this comes at the cost of extreme suffering for the animals.

Pig farrowing crates need to be built from large, heavy-duty metal as it will have a lot of use and will need to withstand constant cleaning to prevent the spread of disease. The walls should also be very thick as this protects both the sows and piglets from injury as well as reduces sound transmission to neighbors. Conventional crate systems force sows to endure weeks in crates so small they cannot stand up, turn around or lie down comfortably. The animals’ legs often become injured on the hard concrete or metal flooring in their stalls. Sows suffer psychologically in these intensive farrowing crates, developing neurotic behaviours such as bar biting, which they can inflict on each other through steel partition bars.

These crates can be used when the sow is pregnant and when she has piglets and they can be left in place during weaning. They are small metal boxes in which the pig is unable to turn around or walk more than a step or two. Sows in these crates may be given food and water through metal hatches and they may be released to the floor of the building for exercise once a day.

Why Use Pig Farrowing Crate

Protecting piglets from crushing and mortality during piglet-sow interaction depends on the technique used for proper housing, pen design, feeding facilities, adequate space per piglet, sow training; all requiring skillful handling. Using a pig farrowing crate is one of the most effective means to reduce mortality and injuries inflicted upon newborn piglets. Pig farrowing crates are a tool used in commercial pig farming to contain pregnant pigs during the time when they give birth and nurse their young. These tools were developed for this purpose due to the high mortality rate of newborn piglets.

Pig Farrowing Crate Design and Dimension

A farrowing crate is a pen where sows are kept after they have given birth. They are crucial to the livelihood of your sows and piglets. Sows are moved into these pens after only 14 days after they have given birth. The purpose of this confinement is to help reduce mortality rate during the early weeks of life, reduce stress levels on the sow, and keep the piglets under close supervision. A well-designed, clean environment for your sows is crucial in order to guarantee the wellbeing of the sows and the well-being of your piglets. With sow mortality rate increasing, farmers are realizing the importance of providing comfortable farrowing pens for their animals.

Thus, ideally, in a family farm of 300-500 sows farrowing houses should contain about 10 crates and in smaller herds about 6. In large herds of 1000 or more sows it is useful to have farrowing houses of two or more different sizes, say, 12 to 20 crates. If rooms are bigger than this the farrowing spread becomes too large to operate an efficient all-in all-out system.

Pig farrowing crates are critical for proper piglet growth. The gestation crate size should be 2.6 meters by 1.85 meters in order to allow a sow enough room to move around and settle comfortably in a lying position in the further third of the cage.

These directions show you how to build a standard 5-foot-by-7-foot sow crate with an 18-inch piglet creep area. The crate is for use during farrowing only, and is not meant to house sows during gestation or after nursing 4 weeks after piglets are born. Caged sows and piglets are vulnerable to rodent and other animal predation. Building a pig farrowing crate is a straightforward process that can be accomplished by most small farmers. This page will walk you through the steps to build a basic crate for use in housing sows and their litters.

How To Build A Pig Farrowing Crate

Sows are extremely sensitive to climate conditions. Therefore, one must pay close attention to their comfort requirements. The pig farrowing crate is perfectly suited for this purpose! The overall height of the crate can be adapted to your needs. If so desired, it is also possible to connect two or more crates. It is designed in such a way that makes it is impossible for the sow to lie on the piglets, providing the right environment for both sows and piglets in the farrowing house as well as helping to minimize mortality and maximize the growth rate of the piglets. Below is a video description of Pig farrowing crate and what it stands for

Source: SAFE for Animals New Zealand

Let’s just talk about the basic facts. A farrowing crate consists of specially designed flooring, with an attached roof to protect sows from sun, rain and dust. There are 4 parts to a fresh crate, they are solid floors, front, back and 2 sides. The solid floors are where your sows will give birth to their piglets. The floors are made with ridges for newborns to find their feet. After the birth the sow finds her piglets in this area and they remain here until it’s time for them to join the rest of your herd on the farm.

#1. Floor

Construction of the pig building should be made with nonporous, easy-to-clean material that dries quickly. Constructions must also have easy drain access to prevent the pooling of liquid and no cracks to harbor infections. All surfaces must be constructed of non-porous, easy-to-clean materials that not only dry quickly but can also be spot cleaned and sanitized. Also, floor drains should be easily accessible to drain any liquids and to further prevent the disease from spreading.

Farrowing crates make for a more economical way of keeping sows indoors since a typical crate allows for a sow and her litter to be kept in an area of roughly three and a half metres square. They also reduce the possibility of accidental infant mortality and hence increase production and economic return.

#2. Layout

This area should be large enough to house about 25 sows plus gilts, plus there should also be room to place moms with piglets away from the rest of the herd. The sow pen should be about 6 feet wide by 8 feet long, with a feed passage on the front side of the pen. It is important for dry sows to have plenty of room, so it may be necessary to use more than one pen per group of sows. Floor space for pens should be at least 6 x 6 feet or 6 x 10 feet. Each pen should be covered in concrete with a drain.

Once a sow has farrowed, she will care for her litter. This often takes about a week, after which time the piglets are ready to be weaned from the sow. At this time piglets should be removed from the pen and put in a growing pen where they will get feeders and waterers where they cannot get to their littermates and get them dirty. In large operations, it is not uncommon to have four or five different-sized small groups of pigs in a grower unit until the pig has reached market weight. A farrowing crate can be made of wood, portable steel construction panels, or stainless steel. Regardless of the material, its size should be appropriate for the number of sows in the herd and the number of births planned for each week. For a smaller farm, 6 crates are appropriate.

A pig farrowing pen consists of one or more individual farrowing crates in a pen and a creep area (a barrier) to confine piglets in separate areas until weaned. The sow is in the farrowing crate from 1 week prior to 3-4 weeks after Piglet weaning is complete. Both mother and weaned offspring use the creep area at 2 weeks through about 4 weeks, after which time transition begins.

#3. Ventilation

Farrowing crates are usually built out of galvanized steel, to be both durable and easy to clean. The floor of the housing area must be impervious to moisture. Water will collect on the concrete or gravel floor during wet weather, which can pose a slipping hazard to sows. For this reason, concrete is not the best choice for the floor. The temperature of the farrowing crate needs to be adjusted so that the sow does not overheat, but also not too cold. Adjusting temperature will vary depending on many factors, including temperature outside, type of bedding, number of pigs in the crate, air circulation within the facility.   

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