Effects of sow grouping practices on reproductive performance and piglet development in relation to prenatal stress
After being bred, sows are commonly housed in individual stalls, which restricts their movement and impacts their well-being. For this reason, Canadian farmers are transitioning to housing sows in groups where sows have social interaction and greater movement. Groups can be formed right after breeding, with either a constant group (static: the same sows remain together until farrowing) or with smaller groups of sows being periodically removed and replaced (dynamic). While group housing allows sows greater movement and ability to socialize it can also compromise welfare by increasing aggression and stress, particularly in subordinate sows, if not properly managed. Stress on the sow can also impact the development of piglets in utero, potentially affecting the quantity and quality of pigs produced and piglets’ behaviour, immune system and physiology later in life. This study will compare the stress that sows experience in static and dynamic groups, and study the effects their piglets. The results will be used to assist pig producers in implementing better sow grouping practices that can decrease stress and improve production outcomes.