Farm Ireland

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Choose your new sow housing option

Ciaran Carroll

Farmers are less than three years away from requirements under pig welfare legislation (S.I. 48 of 2008) that sows must be loose housed from four weeks after service until one week before expected farrowing date.

This means that almost 70pc of dry sows must be loose housed. A substantial capital investment of €35m is required if current sow numbers are to be maintained. Grant aid of up to €13m is planned under a new sow housing scheme. We are waiting for the terms and conditions to be published.

Planning permission to construct new housing may be required on many farms. Now is the time to consider your options in advance of announcement of the scheme. What do you need to consider?

The critical decision is the type of system you choose. There are already several systems in operation in Ireland. These include free-access welfare stalls (groups of four to six), larger groups in traditional 'finisher-type' pens (10-20 sows) and electronic sow feed systems (60-240 sows).

Smaller groups require a larger total floor area:

  • 2.5m2 for groups of five sows and served gilts or less.
  • 2.25m2 for groups of six to 39 sows and served gilts.
  • 2.025m2 for 40 or more sows and served gilts.

Existing dry sow houses can be converted. However, in order to maintain sow numbers some additional new housing will be required, unless there are other unused buildings on the farm that can also be converted. With conversions it is important to remember that existing slats may need to be replaced as the new legislation requires that the maximum slat width opening is 20mm and the minimum must be at least 80mm for sows and gilts.

Talk to other producers and your Teagasc adviser about the system that will best suit your farm.

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Irish Independent