How a study by three students can result in new housing system

14 January 2019Time: 2 minutes

Do you remember the three enthusiastic students who observed piglets for 60 hours for their research project? The young ladies who were in the farrowing house non-stop and slept in a caravan in the yard? They measured the mortality rate in farrowing crates where sows can walk around freely, and precisely when and where mortality occurred. Their study produced some interesting data.

Inspiration behind innovation

In crates that allow sows freedom to move, it appears that the highest mortality risk is during the first 24 hours of a piglet’s life. Immediately after birth the piglet doesn’t leave its mother’s side; it suckles constantly. We would rather see the piglets move into the piglet nest as soon as possible to minimise the risk of crushing or smothering. But, logically, they are reluctant to leave the sow. For a good start in life they need their fair share of colostrum with all the necessary antibodies. This explains why they keep close to the sow and why the first hours are so potentially risky.

Combine the best of two systems

We got to work with the results of the study. How could we adapt our products to limit piglet mortality yet still ensure they could stay close to the sow? At first we concluded that a proper ‘free farrowing’ education of your workers is very important. If you have a large farm with frequently changing staff, however, it is hard to give these people the right education. After a lot of weighing up the pros and cons we came up with the idea of combining the moveable Vari Plus floor with a loose farrowing system crate. The sow is at liberty to move around, while the moveable floor reduces mortality. Sounds simple, just merge the two separate components and ready to go….

A small pebble creates large ripples

However, things are different in practice. The upright, two-centimetre edge in the Vari Plus floor quickly creates an obstacle in a farrowing crate with space to move around. A sow can’t lie down comfortably if she is resting on a ridge in the floor. But, one small pebble can create large ripples….How do you position the bars if the upright edge is removed? Suddenly, it’s a question of ifs and buts. But fortunately, a solution is always around the corner!

Dotting the i’s

After a long process of trial and error we developed a new prototype on paper. Ten crates were then installed as a pilot on a farm in Denmark. This gave us time to finetune all the technical aspects of the innovation and dot the i’s.

ProDromi Up

And the result? The Pro Dromi Up; a loose farrowing system crate, but with a Vari Free floor. Maybe you saw this innovation at the LIV trade event; Landbouwdagen Intensieve Veehouderij in Venray?

PS: Seven students at the HAS have started two new research projects. Do you want to keep up to speed with the research developments? Keep reading our blogs. Don’t miss the latest news!

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