Farmers try crating breastfeeding sows
A test project aims to investigate if holding sows in farrowing crates allows more piglets to survive if the sow is immobilised while they're lactating.
Today Swedish pig farmers are required by law to ensure that sows that have just given birth have a stall where they can freely move around. The lactating sows need to be able to turn around and the farrowing stalls have to have a feeding corner and an area where the piglets can rest under a heat lamp.
But despite the ample space and ability to move around, hundreds of thousands of piglets freeze, starve or are trampled to death in Sweden every year.
The trade organisation Swedish pig has looked south to the Danish pig farming model for inspiration on how to reduce piglet mortality, and has now launched a test project with smaller stalls where the sows are immobilised.
Twelve Swedish farms have started using smaller farrowing crates on trial and have been granted permission to break the law to evaluate the method.
Mattias Espert at Swedish Pig is hopeful about the results. But the project, that involves up to 100,000 pigs, has a lot of critics. Ingemar Olsson is a professor of animal behaviour at Linköping University and he says that studies already have shown that farrowing crates have no effect on mortality.
Olsson says that there are already hundreds of studies that proves that the methods that the trade organisation wants to try have devastating results. He says that that was established over sixty years ago, and adds that Swedish pig farmers will lose their top sales argument in Sweden if they compromise their animal welfare policy.
Last year Sweden imported close to 17 000 tonnes of pork from Denmark, where the pig farming regulations are more lenient and the price of pork is lower.
Responding to Olsson's criticism, Mattias Espert at Swedish Pig says that there hasn't been any Swedish studies and that the farming conditions here are so different that a new study is warranted.