More training needed to fulfill sow-pen potential
The transition from sow stalls to pens will require greater levels of stockmanship and training if it is going to fulfill its health and welfare potential, according to a pig expert.
Tom Parsons, director of the Swine Teaching and Research Centre at the University of Pennsylvania, said the switch to pens has created uncertainty about who the right people are and how they should be trained, reports PORKNetwork.
Parsons said that as the sector sought to identify people who get job satisfaction from working in the pig industry, it became apparent that pens will allow staff to have greater interaction with animals then before. As a result, it is more important to find people who like animals so they are motivated in their work, he said.
Stalled barns also require different training than conventional systems, he added.
“I think in general the animals have a bigger behavioral repertoire.
“In a crated barn their activities are somewhat limited whereas in a pen they’re moving around more and a successfully trained stockperson can see subtle changes in behavior sooner.
“That’s going to confer an advantage on them being able to intervene sooner and be able to hopefully at some point get these barns up to a higher level of management.”
Parsons said one reason crated systems have been so popular is they don’t require the same level of stockmanship, allowing a broader choice of employees.
However, he noted that moving to pen barns — and the associated a higher level of stockmanship — will provide an opportunity to improve what happens both in terms of performance and quality of care for the sows.