Concrete floors in piggeries wear with use and some were also installed before current regulations for pig welfare were introduced; so there are some cases where slot or beam widths are outside those stipulated in legislation and assurance standards. “This may be very localised, where damage has occurred,” notes Nigel Penlington, BPEX’s environment programme manager. “The trial aimed to avoid replacing entire floors or large sections on farms unable to achieve the requirements.
“Potential suppliers of solutions to these problems were openly invited to participate in this long-term evaluation,” he continues. “Three systems were offered for trial: slot reducer plate inserts, steel bar inserts and slot closer insert plates.”
The trial involved a comparison between groups of grower and finisher pigs kept in pens with the treatment system installed and an equivalent number of pigs in adjacent pens without.
After installation, a veterinary surgeon visited each of the participating farms over the course of several months to assess the welfare of the pigs using the Real Welfare outcomes measures as well as scoring for bursae on the legs.
Producers were also asked for feedback about their general satisfaction as well as ease of installation, device durability and methods of repair.
The results of the trial were generally favourable. The slot closure devices were perceived to be good, and providing that they were installed correctly, producers found that the floor beam width could be increased to meet legislative requirements without impacting negatively on the pigs.
Very similar results were achieved when trialling the slot reducer devices. As with the slot closure mechanism, correct installation was vital to prevent the pigs dislodging the devices. Both Defra and the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) staff were satisfied that the inserts were an acceptable solution to reducing gap width.
The steel bar inserts were also considered a success, but are not applicable to all floor types.
Overall, all three methods of narrowing slots and widening beams were effective and BPEX will continue to monitor the farms over a longer period.
August 13, 2013 - BPEX