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Assessment of emerging technologies to manage sows and piglet during lactation

Project Summary

The farrowing crate was originally introduced as a management tool in pig farming in the 1960’s. Its function is to improve ease of management of sows, allow higher stocking densities of sows on farm, and to reduce piglet mortality, particularly due to crushing. However, in recent years due to changes in the genetics of the domesticated pig, the number of piglets born in each litter has increased dramatically; in Ireland, there has been an increase of nearly 2 live-born pigs per litter between 2005 and 2015. Moreover, the physical frame of sows has also increased over the years. Finally, the change to mandatory group housing of sows during gestation in 2013 means that sows are now accustomed to freedom of movement throughout most of their lives. As a consequence, traditional crates may no longer be the most appropriate housing option for both sows and piglets during lactation. This has been recognized by both industry and research scientists, and in recent years there is growing interest in developing alternatives to the crated system. This project will consist of a series of experiments to assess the feasibility of various strategies for lactation housing of sows and piglets.

Expected benefits

  • Identification of commercially feasible options to improve the welfare of sows and piglets in the farrowing rooms
  • Determine optimal management strategies when managing sows in loose crates to reduce crushing
  • Investigation of systems designed to reduce piglet crushing during the early days of life
  • Increased knowledge on sow and piglet factors related to improved performance and welfare during lactation.


Publications & Resources:


  • Dr. Keelin O’Driscoll
  • Orla Kinane
  • Dr. Fidelma Butler (UCC)

For More details contact: