Research project Feasibility of free farrowing ("Haalbaarheid van vrijloopkraamhokken" in Dutch)

In progress TRIPLE F
pigs free narrowing

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Sarah De Smet

Pig Information Center Coordinator

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Main research question

What should pig farmers choose if they need to (re)construct new(er) farrowing housing for their sows in the near future? Since traditional farrowing crates offer limited freedom of movement, they may want to consider free-range farrowing crates. These represent innovative, welfare-friendly housing of the individual sow in the farrowing pen. However, objective practical knowledge and information on the economic feasibility of the systems are still scarce. The Triple F operational group is therefore mapping out the challenges and bottlenecks experienced by an initial group of users/pig farmers (the pioneers) of free-range stall housing. This will result in a broad, more objective evaluation of the (practical and economic) feasibility of free-range stalls. Problems or challenges in areas such as ventilation, heating, reproduction parameters and/or piglet loss will be addressed. The aim of the initiative is to prevent possible problems for a second group of pig farmers. (the innovators) and to allow them to make a more informed decision based on these obtained data. The constructors also learn from the "wish list" of the innovators and the bottlenecks cited by the pioneers. Their systems thus become more practical and economically feasible.

The Triple F operational group aims to identify the challenges and bottlenecks experienced by an initial group of users/pig farmers (pioneers) of free-range stalls in order to evaluate the (practical and economic) feasibility of free-range stalls. Problems or challenges related to ventilation, heating, reproduction parameters and/or piglet loss, among others, will be addressed. This is to prevent problems for a second group of pig farmers (innovators) and to let them make an informed decision based on this information. The constructors also learn from the "wish list" of the innovators and the bottlenecks that the pioneers point out. It will make their systems more practical and economically feasible.

Research approach

First of all, we collect the available info (scientific knowledge and experience) from home and abroad about different free-range stall systems. The free-range systems currently in use are inventoried from a practical and financial point of view. Subsequently, the Flemish sow farmers will be asked about their needs and expectations with regard to free-range stalls. The challenges and bottlenecks experienced by a first group of users (the pioneer pig parents) of free-range stalls will be mapped out in order to evaluate their feasibility. Knowledge sharing is done through a knowledge cooperative. At a later stage, structural engineers and government will also be involved. We plan farm visits (virtual and in-person) to introduce the innovators and other interested sow farmers to the free-range systems of the pioneers. This will give them a better idea of the possibilities for application on their own farms. Via two demonstration afternoons, the sow farmers also get to know various suppliers of free-range stall systems.

Relevance/Valorization

The main objective of this operational group is to provide pig farmers who want to invest in free-range stalls in the short term with tools to make a well-considered objective decision. Investments that turn out to be practically and economically unfeasible due to lack of knowledge can thus be prevented. In addition, mutual knowledge exchange between the pioneers and innovators should make their installed systems more performant. The findings will be disseminated through two demonstration afternoons, study circles, the trade press, www.varkensloket.be (in Dutch) and newsletters. Partners within the operational group Triple F are 11 pig farmers (pioneers and innovators), Boerenbond, KU Leuven, PVL and Varkensloket/ILVO.