EKU Faculty and Staff Scholarship


152 Effects of Group Housing on Sow Production and Behavior



Document Type


Publication Date



Currently, most sows in the U.S. are housed in individual stalls throughout gestation. However, this practice has come under scrutiny due to animal welfare concerns from the public leading to more swine operations exploring group housing. There is not a clear recommendation on the pen square footage needs per sow. This study evaluated the behavior and production of gestating sows in (1) open pen housing with 17.5 sq ft per sow (PEN17.5, n=2) and (2) open pen housing with 21 sq ft per sow (PEN21, n=2). Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED of SAS using sow group as the experimental unit. All sows were in the same stage of gestation upon entering the open pen housing. Sow behavior was observed and recorded immediately upon sows entering the housing treatment, at 4 hr and 8 hr after entrance on d0, then at 2 time periods away from feeding on d1, 3, 5, and 7. Behavior was observed in 10-minute intervals/sow at each time period. Sows were weighed and body condition scored upon entering and leaving each housing treatment. Sow stress inidices included aggressive behavior and skin injury. In addition, all sows were assigned skin abrasion scores to evaluate aggressive behavior. Skin scores were assigned for both sides at 4 distinct locations: ears, shoulders, flanks, and hams. Sows in PEN17.5 spent more time (P < 0.05) engaged in aggressive behavior on d0 than sows in PEN21. There were no treatment differences (P > 0.05) for aggressive behavior on the remaining observation days. Further research is needed to identify underlying mechanisms to reduce variability and manage aggression in gestating sows housed in open pens.

Journal Title

Journal of Animal Science

Journal Volume


Journal Issue

2018 Supplement--Undergrad Competition

Article Starting Page


Article Ending Page