Feeding stations for group housed sows
Generally speaking, there are two ways of feeding pigs: in groups or individually. Examples of group feeding are trough and floor feeding; for individual feeding these are feeding (lying) cubicles and feeding stations.
A major advantage of feeding stations for sows is that each animal can get the amount of feed required (based on Body Condition Score, fat thickness and/or body weight) because there are multiple feeding curves. This is possible for both stable and dynamic groups. Furthermore, a daily report can be made of sows that do not come to eat.
Decisive for success are barn design and set-up of equipment in the barn. For example, functional areas for defecating, resting and eating should be separated and the maximum number of sows per feeding station must not be exceeded. The feeding stations ideally have a long return run, so the feeling of satiety can occur during the return to the group and sows will go straight into the resting area, instead of moving back to the feeding station and disturbing other sows. Placing the drinking facility at the end of the return run also provides extra time for the sow, which improves a relaxed environment for the sows.
An option that can further increase ease of work is the separation box for separating sows for vaccination, pregnancy control, moving to the farrowing pen, heat-detection, etc. And last but not least, don’t forget the gilts training station!
When using feeding stations there are fewer return-to-estrus sows and there are more piglets raised per sow per year.