Swine Cluster 1

Sow Housing: risk factors and assessment techniques for lameness,
productivity and longevity in group and individually housed gestating sows

Project leaders

  • Nicolas Devillers, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC),Sherbrooke, Québec
  • Laurie Connor, Dept. of Animal Science, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Project objective

Assessment of risk factors affecting the productivity and longevity in gestating group housed sows, and over a variety of management systems, with a special focus on lameness.


Summary of the project

In the transition to group housing of gestating sows, the ability
to identify the risk factors affecting sow welfare and longevity in the herd
becomes increasingly critical for assurance of animal well-being and
economic viability. The research proposed herein will use conventional and new technologies to identify factors, such as social rank, lameness, nutrient balance and early reproduction management that impact sow welfare and longevity in the herd. By assessing the relationships of these factors to lameness and longevity, reliable tools for early identification of lameness and temperament traits can improve animal selection for particular housing conditions, provide valuable data for validation of a sow investment longevity model and thereby contribute to economic viability of the pork sector.

Significant achievements

Data collection training workshop was held at University of Manitoba.
Meeting participants, forming a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional team, included researchers, research technicians, post-doc students and research assistants. Participants were from Prairie Swine Centre, University of Guelph, AAFC and University of Manitoba. Protocols have been developed for each sub-project: longevity, social and temperament factors and lameness assessment. Testing of new equipment (kinematics and accelerometer), and setting up of test areas at each site. Development of the protocol to incorporate comparison of infrared technology (IRT) to other lameness scoring systems is progressing. A data sharing systems has been set up across research sites. Studies investigating the impact of gilt selection and breeding methods as well as a retrospective study on age of gilt selection are underway. A preliminary experiment completed for the calcium and phosphorus balance studies, concluded that pQCT estimation of muscle cross sectional area can use frozen limbs, however, muscle density, if determined using this methodology, msu be done using fresh tissue.