They reported excellent results, mainly regarding the pen concept’s profitability. Similarly to Finland, where freedom farrowing pens are eligible for state subsidies, pig farmers all across Europe increasingly invest in the innovative pen type and can profit from their Finnish colleagues experience.
“The new WEDA concept for freedom farrowing pens is highly flexible and therefore complies with the strict requirements of our Finnish state,” explained one Finnish sow farmer. “In Finnish pens, the floor must be at least 50 per cent sealed. The mandatory minimum net area in Finland is six square meters; the mandatory nesting area, where the sow must not have access, must be one square meter.” This gives the sow roughly four-and-a-half square meters of floor area with unrestricted use to turn around without obstruction.
Effective protection from aggression
Finnish sow farmers trust in low walls and lockable side frames in the pen. They provide stability and good insight from all sides. Beyond that, the Finnish pen with integrated inspection corridors provides easy access to all areas without having to step into the pen. “This way, trough inspections and cleaning work can be done quickly, hygienically and without complication and without disturbing the animals’ routine,” the Finnish sow farmer elaborated. “Not least thanks to this, my staff and I are protected much better from possible aggressive sow behavior. When we need to, we can enter the pen through a special entry gate without having to restrain the sow – for example to help with the birthing process or to rescue piglets from being crushed.”
Short-time restraining reduces piglet losses
An obligatory, economical component of the new pen concept is the piglet protection cage for short-time sow restraining. It has more than proven its worth in Finnish customers’ eyes. “Our Finnish customers reported great experience with restraining the sow for five to seven days after the birth,” stated Dr. Steffen Kaiser, responsible for the Scandinavian sales area at WEDA. “This time window demonstrably involves the most piglet losses, and short time sow restraining significantly reduces those losses. This makes piglet losses in our freedom farrowing pens comparable to the losses incurred in conventional pens,” Kaiser stated further.
Good insight for farmers
The placement of the piglet protection cage impacts the sow’s resting position. Since sows prefer to lie down with their head facing fresh air, air is supplied at the trough front end. This means the sow’s head rests at the most narrow point of the triangular movement area. Therefore, rolling over too quickly from one side to the other is made more difficult for the sow. This gives the piglets enough time to move out of the sow’s way.
In the Finnish pens, the piglet protection cage is installed in a manner that provides farmers with a good overview of pen and sow. When the cage is open, the sow has a large range of movement; when it is closed, staff has enough room to move around the sow or to catch piglets.