Sow housing


Ratification Date: 01 Dec 2013


Sow housing should optimise the health, nutrition and welfare of sows, newly born piglets and unborn piglets. Feeding systems for pregnant sows housed in groups must minimise aggression and allow all sows equal access to food and water to meet their physiological requirements. Accommodation for farrowing and lactating sows must be designed and managed to optimise sow welfare whilst minimising piglet mortality.

In previous housing protocols, stall housing of individual sows during early pregnancy for periods up to 6 weeks was commonly endorsed as a means to reduce reproductive losses and adverse social interactions. New research in addressing group housing that reduces the need to confine sows individually, and promotes sow welfare through improved mobility, environment and social interaction is supported.


Pregnant sows housed in groups will fight to determine group hierarchy, with fighting accentuated at feeding times. Any housing and feeding system for pregnant sows in groups must:

  • minimise competition for food and water and the associated fighting, stress and injury to sows
  • ensure appropriate daily food and water intake and good nutrition of all sows, and allow individual sows to be fed more as required to maintain their body condition score above 2 out of 5.
  • maximise the proportion of successful pregnancies by reducing stress-induced abortions.

There are similar considerations for housing farrowing and lactating sows and their piglets.

Farrowing accommodation must:

  • ensure appropriate daily food and water intake and good nutrition of all sows (including the increased feed and water intake required to produce milk for rapidly growing piglets)
  • minimise the number of overlain suckers and the pre-weaning death rate
  • enhance the health, nutrition, welfare and survival of piglets by:
  • providing control over the quality of their environment
  • allowing the provision of supplementary heating and feeding (if required)
  • facilitating close supervision and care by farrowing shed stockpeople.

The quality of stockmanship of the people caring for the sows and piglets must be sufficiently high to minimise any adverse effects of sow housing.

Other recommendations

Further research is urgently required to develop systems that improve housing of sows and piglets.

Other relevant policies and position statements

Model code of practice for the welfare of animals: pigs


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Date of ratification by AVA Board December 2013