The Sow Housing Forum drew a standing-room-only crowd as members of the pork industry from around the world met to discuss options and management solutions for sow housing on June 6 at the Downtown Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, IA.

The forum drew 243 attendees, including representatives from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the Netherlands.

The forum provided pork producers with the opportunity to learn more about sow housing options in gestation including individual vs. group housing of sows.

The event was sponsored by National Hog Farmer, the Pork Checkoff, Chore-Time Hog Production Systems, Hubbard and the U.S. Pork Center of Excellence.

Addressing Industry Questions

The forum attempted to address various questions related to the current industry debate on sow housing.

“There are a lot of questions in the industry about which direction we are headed and how far we need to go,” said Dale Miller, editor of National Hog Farmer, in an opening address to the crowd. “What technologies are available to help us with this transition, if in fact it is a trend that is going to continue? A lot of questions remain.”

Attempting to answer these questions were 14 speakers who addressed topics ranging from feeding to management, to labor and animal well-being. Many questions followed the various talks.

“I think that well-managed operations can make any system work, whether it is a grouped or stall-housed gestation system,” said Ken Stalder, professor of animal science at Iowa State University, who spoke on sow longevity.

Janeen Salak-Johnson, associate professor of animal science at the University of Illinois, warned producers not to be too quick to abandon individual sow stalls, during her talk on the reality of sow stalls.

“People think that it is as simple as improving welfare of a sow by removing her from an individual enclosure and putting her into a group pen,” she said. “It really isn't that simple, because there are sows that truly prefer to be in that individual stall.”

The Sow Housing Forum can be listened to in its entirety at www.pork.org/Producers/sowhousingforum.aspx. Proceedings and PowerPoint presentations are also included.

The Aug. 15, 2007 issue of National Hog Farmer will also provide a report on several talks presented at the conference.