Determining the welfare status of gestating sows can be challenging because of the complexities between different gestation housing environments and challenges quantifying measures of welfare. A common problem with group housing of gestating sows is a condition commonly known as “boss sow” syndrome. This occurs when dominant sows that are high on the social order consume more feed than desired at the expense of other sows in the group. In this project, we increased the feeding frequency from two to six times per day and spaced the feedings at a designed interval in an attempt to induce the sense of satiety of the boss sows and reduce variation in sow weight gain within each pen. Increasing feeding frequency did not improve overall weight gain, weight variation, reproductive performance, or overall removal rate of group housed gestating sows or gilts. There was a small reduction in skin and vulva lesions and structural scores, but an increase in vocalization for sows fed six times per day. In summary, increasing the feeding frequency from two to six times per day does not appear to have a dramatic negative or positive impact on performance or welfare of group housed gilts and sows.
Contact: Mike Tokach, 246 Weber Hall, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66502; 785-532-2032; firstname.lastname@example.org