Farmscape for December 31, 2008
Research underway at the National Centre for Livestock and the Environment suggests higher manure handling and labour costs in straw based swine housing may be offset by reduced veterinary costs and lower culling rates.
Researchers with the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences have been comparing sows raised in conventional slatted floor systems to those raised in groups housed on straw since 2006.
As well as evaluating differences in the manure produced in the two systems, scientists are monitoring the performance and welfare of the sows.
Animal science professor Dr. Laurie Connor reports culling rates have been higher in the conventional system as a result of higher leg and joint problems.
Clip-Dr. Laurie Connor-University of Manitoba
What you would see of course is that, in terms of operational costs, is that because the one is on straw and the other isn't that you have the straw component which is going to cost a bit more.
The straw system also does require slightly more labour because it needs to be cleaned out more with a front end loader.
However we have nothing near the medications or drug costs in that particular facility and so, in some ways, they start to balance out both in terms of the time that needs to be spent in administering those medications as well as the extra costs of the drugs.
I'm sorry, I don't have any actual dollars and cents at the moment.
This is something that, for this past two years, we are hoping to have actual figures totaled up and some good comparison by early next year.
Dr. Connor says, considering the many factors involved, including manure management and labour, it's still too early to make strong recommendations one way or the other.
She notes a web page is under development which will outline some of the things producers should look at when they consider going to group housing.
She hopes that resource will also be available in early 2009.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.
*Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork Council