Unlike stall housing, group housing comes in various shapes and sizes. It is important to understand the long-term consequences of each system to make good choices based on the ability of staff, warehouse layout, and size of the herd.
Competition for food between sows is an important consideration. Electronic sow feeding (ESF) and free access stall systems are known as 'non-competitive' feeding systems. For more information about comparison of electronic sow feeders you can visit https://www.feedworks.com.au/product/equipment-feeding-systems/nedap-electronic-sow-feeders/.
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They are designed to provide individual dining for sows and competition limits for feed by isolating sown at mealtimes. So that all the sows had access to feed and no can be moved by other pigs, short stalls, stalls open and the dining floor is known as 'competitive' feeding systems.
The feed is provided in open troughs or directly to the floor, and all sows will compete for access to these resources. Different approaches are used to manage the system competitive and non-competitive in terms of the size of the group and daily checks.
In a competitive system, pigs are typically managed in groups smaller, usually less than 10 to 30 animals. In the free access stall pen, the group sizes generally range from 30 to 60 animals, and ESF pens can be managed with large groups, ranging from 60 sows to more than 300 sows in a dynamic ESF system.
In a non-competitive system, a wide mix of sow parity can be accommodated, but even in this system the smaller and subordinate sow can be profitable.