The Effects of Gilts Housed Either in Group with the Electronic Sow Feeding System or Conventional Stall

  • Jang, J.C. (Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, College of Animal Life Sciences, Seoul National University) ;
  • Jung, S.W. (Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, College of Animal Life Sciences, Seoul National University) ;
  • Jin, S.S. (Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, College of Animal Life Sciences, Seoul National University) ;
  • Ohh, S.J. (College of Animal Life Science, Kangwon National University) ;
  • Kim, J.E. (National Institute of Animal Science, Rural Development Administration) ;
  • Kim, Y.Y. (Department of Agricultural Biotechnology, College of Animal Life Sciences, Seoul National University)
  • Received : 2014.10.21
  • Accepted : 2015.04.30
  • Published : 2015.10.01


This experiment was conducted to assess the welfare and productivity of gestating gilts in groups with the electronic sow feeding (ESF) system compared to conventional stalls. A total of 83 gilts ($Yorkshire{\times}Landrace$) were housed into individual stalls to be artificially inseminated. Gilts confirmed pregnant were introduced to their treatment, conventional stalls (ST) or groups with the ESF system. All gilts were taken to the farrowing crates one week prior to their expected farrowing date. In the gestation period, there were no significant differences between gilts allocated to ST and ESF on growth performance. However, backfat thickness gain (p = 0.08) and body condition score (BCS) at 110 days of gestation (p = 0.10) tended to be higher in ESF gilts than ST. Likewise, gilts housed in group showed significantly higher estimated body muscle contents at 110 days of gestation (p = 0.02) and body muscle change during gestation (p = 0.01). There was a trend for a shorter parturition time in ESF gilts (p = 0.07). In the lactation period, group housed gilts showed a tendency to increased BCS changes (p = 0.06). Reproductive performance did not differ with the exception of piglet mortality (ST = 0.2 no. of piglets vs ESF = 0.4 no. of piglets; p = 0.01). In blood profiles, ST gilts showed a higher cortisol level at 110 days of gestation (p = 0.01). Weaning to estrus interval was shorter in gilts housed in ESF than ST (p = 0.01). In locomotory behaviors, ESF gilts recorded a tendency to elevate locomotion score at 36, 70, and 110 days of gestation (p = 0.07, p = 0.06, and p = 0.06, respectively). Similarly, ESF gilts showed significantly higher incidence of scratches at 36, 70, and 110 days of gestation (p = 0.01). Moreover, farrowing rates were higher in stall treatment (97.6%) compare to group housing treatment (95.2%). In conclusion, while group housed gilts with ESF system positively affected welfare status in combination with less physiologically stressful environments and activity, it negatively effects piglet mortality, farrowing rates and injuries of gilts.


Supported by : Rural Development Administration (RDA)


  1. Scientific Veterinary Committee. 1997. The welfare of intensively kept pigs. In: Report of the cientific Veterinary Committee, Animal Welfare Section, to the Comission of the European Union. Doc. XXIV/ScVc/0005/1997. Adopted September 30, 1997. Brussels, Belgium.
  2. Spinka, M., G. Illmann., B. Algers, and Z. Stetkova. 1997. The role of nursing frequency in milk production in domestic pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 75:1223-1228.
  3. Spoolder, H. A. M., M. J. Geudeke, C. M. C. van der Peet-Schwering, and N. M. Soede. 2009. Group housing of sows in early pregnancy: a review of success and risk factors. Livest. Sci. 125:1-14.
  4. Terlouw, E. M., W. P. G. Schouten, and J. Ladewig. 1997. Physiology in Animal Welfare (Eds. C. Appleby and B.O. Hughes). CAB Int., Oxon, New York, USA. 143 p.
  5. van Dijk, A. J., B. T. van Rens, T. van der Lende, and M. A. Taverne. 2005. Factors affecting duration of the expulsive stage of parturition and piglet birth intervals in sows with uncomplicated, spontaneous farrowings. Theriogenology 64: 1573-1590.
  6. von Borell, E., J. R. Morris, J. F. Hurnik, B. A. Mallard, and M. M. Buhr. 1992. The performance of gilts in a new group housing system: Endocrinological and immunological functions. J. Anim. Sci. 70:2714-2721.
  7. Weary, D. M., E. A. Pajor, D. Fraser, and A. M. Honkanen. 1996. Sow body movements that crush piglets: A comparison between two types of farrowing accommodation. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 49:149-158.
  8. Weng, R. C., S. A. Edwards, and L. C. Hsia. 2009. Effect of individual, group or ESF housing in pregnancy and individual or group housing in lactation on sow behavior. Asian Australas. J. Anim. Sci. 22:1574-1580.
  9. Dourmad, J. Y., M. Etienne, and J. Noblet. 1997. Prediction de la composition chimique des truies reproductrices a partir du poids vif et de l'epaisseur de lard dorsal. J. Rech. Porcine Fr. 29:255-262.
  10. Eissen, J. J., E. Kanis, and B. Kemp. 2000. Sow factors affecting voluntary feed intake during lactation. Livest. Prod. Sci. 64:147-165.
  11. Ford, S. P. and R. K. Christenson. 1979. Blood flow to uteri of sows during the estrous cycle and early pregnancy: local effect of the conceptus on the uterine blood supply. Biol. Reprod. 21:617-624.
  12. Geuyen, T. P. A., J. M. F. Verhagen, and M. W. A. Verstegen. 1984. Effect of housing and temperature on metabolic rate of pregnant sows. Anim. Prod. 38:477-485.
  13. Jensen, K. H., L. S. Sorensen., D. Bertelsen., A. R. Pedersen., E. Jorgensen., N. P. Nielsen, and K. S. Vestergaard. 2000. Management factors affecting activity and aggression in dynamic group housing systems with electronic sow feeding: A field trial. Anim. Sci. 71:535-545.
  14. Karlen, G. A. M., P. H. Hemsworth, H. W. Gonyou, E. Fabrega, A. D. Strom, and R. J. Smits. 2007. The welfare of gestating sows in conventional stalls and large groups on deep litter. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 105:87-101.
  15. King, R. 1991. The basics of sow feeding and management. In: Proceedings Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. pp. 47-51.
  16. Lawrence, A. B., M. C. Appleby, and H. A. Macleod. 1988. Measuring hunger in the pig using operant conditioning: the effect of food restriction. Anim. Prod. 47:131-137.
  17. Marchant, J. N. and D. M. Broom. 1996. Factors affecting posturechanging in loose-housed and confined gestating sows. J. Anim. Sci. 63:477-485.
  18. McGlone, J. J., E. H. Borell, J. von Deen, A. K. Johnson, D. G. Levis, M. C. Meunier-Salaun, J. Morrow, D. Reeves, J. L. Salak-Johnson, and P. L. Sundberg. 2004. Compilation of the scientific literatures comparing housing systems for gestating sows and gilts using measures of physiology, behavior, performance and health. Prof. Anim. Sci. 20:105-117.
  19. Petersen, V., H. B. Simonsen, and L. G. Lawson. 1995. The effect of environmental stimulation on the development of behavior in pigs. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 45:215-224.
  20. Rampacek, G. B., R. R. Kraeling, E. S. Fonda, and C. R. Barb. 1984. Comparison of physiological indicators of chronic stress in confined and nonconfined gilts. J. Anim. Sci. 58:401-408.
  21. Russell, J. A., R. G. Gosden, E. M. Humphreys, R. Cutting, N. Fitzsimons, S. Johnston, S. Liddle, S. Scott, and J. A. Stirland. 1989. Interruption of parturition in rats by morphine: a result of inhibition of oxytocin secretion. J. Endocrinol. 121:521-536.
  22. SAS Institute Inc. 2008. SAS Institute Inc. User's Guide (release 9.2), Cary, NC, USA.
  23. Schmidt, W. E., J. S. Stevenson, and D. L. Davis. 1985. Reproductive traits of sows penned individually or in groups until 35 days after breeding. J. Anim. Sci. 60:755-759.
  24. Andersen, I. L., K. E. Boe, and A. L. Kristiansen. 1999. The influence of different feeding arrangements and food type on competition at feeding in pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 65:91-104.
  25. Barnett, J. L., P. H. Hemsworth, E. A. Newman, T. H. Mc Callum, and C. G. Winfield. 1989. The effect of design of tether and stall housing on some behavioural and physiological responses related to the welfare of pregnant pigs. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 24:1-12.
  26. Bates, R. O., D. B. Edwards, and R. L. Korthals. 2003. Sow performance when housed either in groups with electronic sow feeders or stalls. Livest. Prod. Sci. 79:29-35.
  27. Bohnenkamp A. L., C. Meyer, K. Muller, and J. Krieter. 2013. Group housing with electronically controlled crates for lactating sows. Effect on farrowing, suckling and activity behavior of sows and piglets. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 145:37-43.
  28. Boyle, L. A., F. C. Leonard, P. B. Lynch, and P. Brophy. 2002. Effect of gestation housing on behaviour and skin lesions of sows in farrowing crates. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 76:119-134.
  29. Broom, D. M., M. T. Mendl, and A. J. Zanella. 1995. A comparison of the welfare of sows in different housing conditions. Anim. Sci. 61:369-385.
  30. Cronin, G. M. 1985. The Development and Significance of Abnormal Stereotyped Behaviours in Tethered Sows. Ph.D. Thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, Netherlands.
  31. Cronin, G. M., G. J. Simpson, and P. H. Hemsworth. 1996. The effects of the gestation and farrowing environments on sow and piglet behaviour and piglet survival and growth in early lactation. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 46:175-192.
  32. Dourmad, J. Y., M. Etienne, and J. Noblet. 1996. Reconstitution of body reserves in multiparous sows during pregnancy: Effect of energy intake during pregnancy and mobilization during the previous lactation. J. Anim. Sci. 74:2211-2219.