Gestation Sow Housing Options

As the pork industry in Michigan and the United States evolves, the pork team at Michigan State University Extension has continuously works to identify issues and areas of education that will provide education and assistance for the industry. One such area is that of sow housing. Housing sows in individual stalls has become commonplace across the pork industry, it is understood that this method of production grew in popularity because animals can be housed and cared for individually. As the pork industry progresses and changes, growing consumer concerns have led to increased scrutiny on this standard industry practice. Multiple states, including Michigan, have passed legislation that mandates pregnant females be group-housed for specified portions of gestation.

Michigan legislation states that beginning on April 1, 2020, gestation stalls will no longer be utilized to house sows once they are confirmed pregnant. This change in system design and production method has caused concerns amongst producers and hence pork producers have stated their need for further information and specifications on group sow housing options. In an effort to meet this need of the identified educational components this resource page and various tools have been created.

Gestation group sow housing option resources

Michigan State University Educational Fact Sheets

MSU Extension Educators have worked to compile general information on five different group sow housing designs including, electronic sow feeding (ESF), free access stalls (FAS), floor feeding, short (¾ length) stalls and trickle feeding. Factsheets with system overviews and specifics, equipment and technology needs, system advantages and disadvantages and more information are available from MSU Extension. National Pork Board (NPB) had also taken the time to create information on various different aspects of group sow housing, links to recorded webinars and factsheets are found below.

Michigan State University has taken several steps to assist pork producers with evaluating their sow housing options. The Sow Housing Options Tool (SHOT) allows producers to economically evaluate group housing options. Developed using a standard Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, the SHOT lets users examine their individual production schemes and complete an economic comparison of the GSH systems that they may consider adapting. By inputting personalized farm data and cost estimates for various systems the user will be able to calculate a cost comparison for different systems or a direct comparison of the same system with equipment from different manufacturers. The authors of SHOT have included generalized system costs for each of the group sow housing designs. These number have been calculated using information from equipment manufacturers and pork producers with group sow housing installed in their production system. If the user has explored different group sow housing systems and has quotes or numbers available, they are able to input their personalized numbers to get a truer cost estimate for their system. This cost comparison results in the user's ability to determine the non-farrowing economic cost per pig weaned and per sow in each system along with the expected cost of transitioning their operation to group sow housing.

Also available with the SHOT is a user guide to aid producers when exploring this tool and with evaluating major changes to their pork production businesses. Users will gain an understanding of capital budgeting as they go through the tool and review potential changes to their business. You will need a working knowledge of the various input areas/costs for your individual business in order to develop accurate comparisons of situations and scenarios so you can create and consider alternatives for the transition to group sow housing.

SHOT – Introductory flier - Members of the Michigan State University Extension pork group, with assistance from allied industry, have developed the Sow Housing Options Tool (SHOT), a financial comparison tool that enables producers to economically compare group sow housing systems.

Additional industry-based information:

Michigan Pork Producers Group Sow Housing Needs Assessment Information

Once legislation mandating pork producers in Michigan house gestating sows in groups was signed, MSU Extension pork educators began the task of evaluating where the gaps of information were for producers and the pork industry. Focus groups with Michigan pork producers were completed to determine their educational needs so that they could successfully transition from individual housing to group sow housing. Pork producers indicated that their strategic education needs were: cost comparisons of retrofitting existing facilities and implementing new group housing, feeding systems, employee training, new construction, genetics, and production scheduling. Regarding implementation, producers indicated that education would be needed on defining a sow group, stockperson training, medical care, feeding and watering. Depending on the topic, producers indicated different educational media preferences for program delivery. This information is summarized in a Journal of Extension article. 

Group sow housing case study



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