Ways to house pigs

There are a variety of production systems that are used in the Australian pork industry today. The three videos embedded in this website demonstrate that very clearly. There is no one ideal system in which the facility alone can meet all of the needs of the pigs. There are a number of important factors that go to addressing the welfare of pigs.

Of utmost importance is the husbandry skills of the producer and stock handlers. These husbandry skills encompass the scientific determination of an appropriate nutrition regime for that particular pig, along with specific animal health and hygiene activities. Combine this with preventative care for the pigs in combination with a comfortable and safe environment for the pigs to exist in are critical factors that go towards optimal animal care.

Current housing systems are continuously evolving to improve efficiency, herd health and productivity. Our farmers are committed to developing new alternatives and providing for increased welfare and comfort for their pigs.

Housing systems for pigs from birth to weaning and for lactating and weaned sows are generally managed on an all-in all-out basis, keeping pigs of similar age within a common environment. There should be provision for the cleaning and disinfection of each section between each batch of pigs. This is a major component in disease control and hence good welfare.

The four main options for housing pigs are:

  • Indoor concrete and/or slatted floored individual pens (note that only some sows and boars are housed in individual pens);
  • Indoor concrete and/or slatted floored group pens with various individual or group feeding systems - partial feeding stalls, electronic feeding stations, trickle and floor feeding etc;
  • Barn reared (eco) housing - indoor large open-sided sheds, hoop-like structures, with deep litter flooring (rice hulls, straw, sawdust or similar), sometimes referred to generically as 'deep litter housing' accommodating compatible groups of pigs. They are used extensively for growing pigs and for group housing of dry sows; or
  • Outdoor paddocks, which include rooting areas, wallows, and kennels/huts for shelter (free range). This system of raising pigs is only suitable in certain types of geographical locations.

Suitability of Outdoor Pig Farming in Australia

The suitability of outdoor pig farming (sometimes called 'free range' pig farming) is restricted in Australia due to climatic conditions and soil conditions.

Certain weather and soil conditions make outdoor pig farming unsuitable for animal welfare or environmental reasons. Australia suffers extremes in climate and generally has poor soil, compared to parts of the world where outdoor pig farming is more common.

Free range pork production consists of outdoor paddocks, which includes rooting areas, wallows and kennels/huts for shelter. The huts allow the animals to seek shelter from environmental extremes. They also provide additional protection for the piglets when very young.

The industry and industry stakeholders do not recommend one form of pig farm production system to another. The reality is there are benefits and limitations to each system, however it is critical that the farmer secures the most sustainable outcomes for pig welfare and the environment in the production system chosen.

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