• The effect of floor type in farrowing crates on piglet welfare

      Lewis, Eva; Boyle, Laura; O'Doherty, John V.; Brophy, P.; Lynch, P Brendan; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2005)
      The effect on piglet welfare of different combinations of flooring in the sow and piglet areas of farrowing crates was examined. One hundred and three multiparous sows were housed, from one week pre-farrowing through farrowing and lactation to weaning, in farrowing crates with one of five flooring combinations: SS – slatted steel in both the sow and piglet areas of the crate; SP – slatted steel sow flooring and plasticcoated expanded metal for the piglets; AP – slatted steel (with a checker-plate panel)sow flooring and plastic-coated expanded metal for the piglets; CP – expanded cast iron sow flooring and plastic-coated expanded metal for the piglets; PP – plastic-coated woven wire sow flooring and plastic-coated expanded metal for the piglets. The number of litters assigned to SS, SP, AP, CP and PP were 27, 23, 17, 18 and 18, respectively. All piglet areas had a water-heated pad. Piglets were examined for lesions, scored from zero to three according to severity, at six locations on each foot and at seven locations on each limb during the suckling period. Addition of scores at each location yielded a foot and limb lesion score. In addition, the proportion of piglets in a litter affected by at least one injury was calculated for each of the following: the carpal joints, coronets, accessory digits, footpads. Piglet behaviour was recorded for 2 h, between 1330 and 1630, at 24 h after birth. Litters were weighed at birth and at weaning, and all deaths were recorded during the suckling period. SS litters had higher foot and limb lesion scores (P < 0.001). In addition, a greater proportion of piglets in SS litters were affected by at least one injury to the carpal joint, coronet, accessory digit and footpad (P < 0.001). SP piglets were active on the heatpad in more observations than AP piglets (P < 0.05). PP piglets were inactive in other areas of the pen in more observations than SS piglets (P < 0.05). There was no effect of treatment on piglet weight gain or mortality. It is concluded that the use of slatted steel in piglet areas of farrowing crates cannot be recommended because of injuries to piglets’ feet and limbs. The combination of slatted steel in the sow area and plastic-coated expanded metal in the piglet area encourages use of the heatpad. However, use of plastic-coated woven wire in the sow area encourages piglets to use this area which puts them in danger of being overlaid by the sow.