As the sow housing conversion debate continues across Canada, the Prairie Swine Centre along with the University of Manitoba have launched a national sow housing conversion project to help producers find the most cost effective and beneficial housing for their sows by utilizing a model produced at the University of Manitoba. The model uses the physical attributes of the current barn along with the producer’s plans for the future to develop the best cost barn conversion plan.

Two pilot barns that were identified from a number of applicants from Saskatchewan and Manitoba have entered into the first stages of the planning process to look at options for converting to group sow housing.

This month the barns taking part in the pilot study were visited by researchers Jennifer Brown, Laurie Connor and David Wildeman. During this initial visit the various group sow housing options were presented, giving the barn staff, managers and research scientists a chance to talk through each systems features and benefits. The sow housing model was also showcased to demonstrate what it will bring to the project.

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The selected barns were also visited so physical measurements could be taken to upload into the model. The flooring measurements are critical as this can be the biggest hurdle in any barn conversion. The existing slatted areas, drainage and slurry systems are all set up for sow stalls and as areas are opened up and group loafing and sleeping areas set out, the model will take the current flooring into consideration to reduce the impact of any new flooring costs.

The project aims to provide blueprints and cost estimates for barn conversion that can be used by the producers and construction team to complete the conversion. This information, along with the producers’ experiences during the planning process, will be shared with the industry to give other pork producers insight into the practicalities of converting to group housing.

Claude Vielfaure from Hylife Ltd, a pork operation based in Manitoba, explained why they wanted to be involved in the project: “As a business, we are always looking at creating programs that will suit our variety of customers’ needs, so the idea of working with researchers who have already explored the group-sow systems was a great opportunity.” “The barn visit went well and our staff got a lot out of seeing the different systems available to the industry.”

Prairie Swine Centre Inc., located near Saskatoon, is a non-profit research corporation affiliated with the University of Saskatchewan, and is recognized globally for its contributions to practical, applied science in pork production in the disciplines of nutrition, engineering and applied animal behavior.

Learn more at www.prairieswine.com.

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