The first U.S. test of an automated feeding system that eliminates the need for crating pregnant sows will be done at Texas Tech University by animal scientist John J. McGlone.

“Trickle feeding” allows sows to be kept in social groups of five in open pens. The concept is used in Europe, where gestation crates are being phased out.

The new feeding system promises to protect sows from competition for food, but without animal isolation. It uses a string of feed hoppers and dispensers that deliver feed to individual sows at the speed of the slowest eater, according to USDA's Agricultural Research Service, partner in the project along with Automated Production Systems, Inc., Assumption, IL.