ABC News shared a story over the weekend about sow housing and the challenges created by group housing. The article featured Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, which is home to The Pig Adventure, an interactive, educational open barn that offers tours and exhibits. The article gave an overview of some of the problems, er, opportunities, presented by keeping sows all in a big group, including bullying and aggression.  I’m always a little nervous to read mainstream media articles about sow housing, since people on various sides of the discussion have rather strong feelings about individual gestation stalls, but thankfully, I actually thought the article was pretty neutral.

Comfort Stall-2013-1

However, the article did fail to mention one innovative solution to equitably feeding and caring for the competitive, aggressive pregnant sows – the free access gestation stall, or Freedom Stall.  I’ve talked about it here a bit before, but just in case someone from ABC News is reading (Hi!), I thought I’d share this cool product again.

Inwood IA Freedom Stalls-88-2013

The Freedom Stall, made by Crystal Spring Hog Equipment, combines the concept of loose/group sow housing with individual stalls.  Sows have the choice to spend time in the community area, or have private space in a stall.  The back gate (on the right side of the top photo) closes behind the sow so a bully sow can’t follow her in and take her food.  She can easily back out when she’s ready to join the group again.

Inwood IA Freedom Stalls-21-2013

The Freedom Stalls are set up to have a center aisle so a manager can easily check on the sows while they’re eating.  That alley can be replaced by a raised walkway to provide more space for retrofits.  The barn manager can temporarily lock her in if she is ready for breeding, needs a vaccination or other special treatment.

Inwood IA Freedom Stalls-2-2013

There’s a lot of pressure on farmers who raise food to do so humanely, and that definition often differs widely depending on who you’re talking to.  But in my opinion, the Freedom Stall provides a pretty good solution for everyone involved.

So, ABC News, now you know that there’s another solution to the challenges of group sow housing.  Thanks for reading!  Oh, what’s that?  You want to buy some Freedom Stalls for your own sow operation?  Call me.

 

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[If you’re interested in learning more about the various types of sow housing I mentioned, here’s a couple of good posts: Agricultured / Mom at the Meat Counter.]