SWINE CONFINEMENT BREEDING FACILITIES
R.L. Fehr, G. Parker, S. McNeill and D. Liptrap1
1Associate Extension Professor. Agricultural Engineering Department;
Associate Extension Professor, Animal Sciences Department: Extension Specialist
in Agricultural Engineering West Kentucky Research and Education Center;
and Extension Professor, Animal Sciences Department.
The increased movement of swine production
into confinement in recent years has led to a greater fixed production
cost per pig. To minimize these fixed costs, producers need to maximize
sow reproductive efficiency. This has dictated the use of planned farrowing
schedules, hand mating practices and specialized breeding facilities. Swine
breeding facilities offer the producer an opportunity to improve breeding
herd performance by providing physical conditions which aid in controlled
Animal movement has been one of the
major considerations in designing breeding facilities. However, most producers
have developed methods of moving sows which will maximize their labor efficiency.
Much of the difficulty in moving an individual sow out of a group in a
pen is the physical movement of the gates. Some operators have indicated
that the time of day has an influence on the speed of moving their animals,
with sows being more lethargic during late afternoon breedings.
Boar movement in a confined breeding
facility is less of a problem than sow movement. This is partially because
the boar is moved less often, and also because the boars become accustomed
to the system and are ready to move at the prescribed time. Obviously,
younger boars initially will require more time to move to and from breeding
The following descriptions are of swine
breeding facilities currently being used in Kentucky.
Breeding building A is used on a swine
farrow-to-finish operation which contains 300 sows farrowing on a four-week
schedule. The breeding building contains stalls for the sows and pens for
the boars, and uses a pen arrangement for breeding (Figure
1). Forty front-opening stalls, four boar pens housing two boars each,
and four breeding pens are available. The barn is 28 feet wide and 72 feet
In this facility, the operator dusts
the concrete floor of each breeding pen with lime prior to the breeding
operation to assure that the pen was dry and provided good footing. Boars
then are moved to each of the four breeding pens, and sows are driven individually
from their stall to a breeding pen. After breeding, sows are removed from
the breeding pens and returned to the rear aisle where they are held until
time is available to return them to their stall. During the breeding operation,
the operator assists any boar once he mounts. After completing a single
mating, the boar is removed from the breeding pen and returned to his pen.
A new boar is then moved into the breeding area. This arrangement allows
one individual to be heat-checking or breeding four sows at one time.
The majority of the time is spent physically
moving the sows from the stalls to the breeding pens. However, the actual
movement takes place rapidly and there is no hesitation in the sows, even
those which were in estrus. Some difficulty has been encountered with the
breeding pen arrangement in keeping the boar in the pen when moving in
a new sow. Even so, the system has operated smoothly, with one individual
normally able to handle three breeding pens at one time. This breeding
arrangement and operating procedure allows sows to be heat-checked and
bred at the rate of approximately five minutes per sow with one individual.
Breeding building B uses pens for both
sows and boars and separate breeding pens with sand floors. This arrangement
allows sows and boars to be moved as groups to the breeding area (Figure
2). This farrow-to-finish operation breeds a group of 35 sows every
The manager of this building moves
a pen of four to six sows to a breeding area and then a pen of two to three
boars to the same area. One to three individuals are available during the
breeding operation to assist boars and move sows and boars out of the breeding
area after a mating has occurred. After all three of the boars have mated,
a new group of boars will be exposed to that same sow group. After adequate
exposure of the sows to the boars, the sows are removed as a group from
the breeding area and taken back to their pen. A new group of sows will
then be introduced to the boars remaining in the breeding area. Using a
large breeding pen and hand mating allows a large number of sows to be
exposed to boars in a short period of time.
The building contains adequate pens
to house post-weaned sows, the boars and the gilts pool. Additional pens
are provided which allow sows that have been mated once to be sorted out
from those which have already been mated twice and those not yet mated.
This system requires an average of two minutes per sow with two individuals.
Breeding building C uses a combination
of sow and boar pens with the concrete center aisle being used for the
actual mating. Boars are maintained as a group in pens, as are sows. There
is enough space available to separate during breeding the sows mated once
and those mated twice (Figure 3). This building
also uses an outside lot to hold sows during the breeding process to speed
sow movement through the building. Thirty-four sows are bred every 30 days
in this facility.
The manager of this facility removes
all the sows to be checked from the building to the outside lot. Boars
are then removed from their pens and placed in the center aisle of the
building where the breedings will occur. Up to four pens are formed in
the aisle while mating is occurring. Sows are moved individually from the
outside lot to the breeding area for heat checking. This arrangement provides
a convenient method for moving and resorting sows back to the pens after
heat-checking or mating. The combination of moving sows out to a holding
lot and using separate breeding areas, which are confined to the center
aisle, slows the breeding operation, but improves the monitoring and regroupings
of the animals.
The operator might be able to improve
this building's efficiency by moving the sows directly from the pens to
the breeding area, which is in the center aisle, and then returning them
to a pen after heat-checking or mating. However, this would increase the
amount of operator observation in making sure that all sows have been exposed.
It would also require more time to extract a specific sow from a group
of sows within a pen.
Breeding building D uses pens for sows
and boars. Gates in the boar pens hold the animals to the back of their
pens to use the solid concrete in the front portion as a breeding area.
This allows the pens to be used for both breeding and housing of the boars
(Figure 4). This is a totally enclosed, environmentally-controlled
facility with evaporative pad cooling. The floor is a combination of partial
slats with solid concrete. Thirty-five sows are bred every three weeks
in the facility.
The manager of this facility has four
breeding areas available for use at one time. A boar is removed from its
confinement area in the back of the pen to the breeding area, and sows
are then individually moved from their pens to each of the breeding areas.
To improve the efficiency of the operation, the manager of this facility
will extract four sows at a time, or the number required to fill all the
breeding areas from one pen at one time, in lieu of moving each sow individually
from the pen to the breeding area. Double-hinged gates are available on
each pen to allow easier sow and boar movement.
At one end of the facility, additional
pens are provided to separate mated animals from those still requiring
mating. This makes it easier to monitor a sow's status in the facility.
After the initial heat-checking or mating, the sows are returned to a separate
pen until all the sows from one pen have been heat-checked or mated; the
sows are then returned to their original pen. If a mating has occurred,
the boar is then returned to the back of the pen and a new boar moved to
the front. This facility uses approximately two minutes per sow with two
The following conclusions were made
after studying the operation of these four swine breeding facilities:
1.Sow movement is not a problem, even
for a sow in estrus. While moving sows long distances may slow the mating
process, it is not a limiting factor.
2.Boars quickly learn the movement
sequence for mating and move rapidly to the mating area and back to their
3.Animal movement should not require
turning animals around in an aisle to save time. However, no problems were
observed in turning animals in four-foot aisles.
4.Additional pens or storage areas
must be provided to sort sows after the mating process. This can be eliminated
in facilities using sow crates if the sows are returned to their crate
5.Systems using breeding pens with
groups of sows and boars require more personnel during mating. Personnel
should be available to protect the boar while he is mounted.
6.One person can generally handle only
three to four boars in individual or group pens during mating.
7.Limited data indicates that five
minutes per sow should be allowed for operation of breeding facilities.