The welfare of finishing pigs under different housing and feeding systems: liquid versus dry feeding in fully-slatted and straw-based housing
This study assessed the health and welfare implications of feeding pigs a dry or liquid diet when housed in either fully-slatted or straw-based accommodation. Between April and October 2002, 1024 (Large White × Landrace) × Large White pigs, housed in pens of 32, were fed
ad libitum from 34 kg to slaughter at 104 kg liveweight. Data were collected on a range of welfare parameters. Feeding system affected only respiratory health losses. Lameness and tail-biting tended to be more prevalent health conditions in the fully-slatted system, while in the straw-based
system pigs showed significantly more enteric and respiratory disease. There were no significant treatment effects on skin lesions or bursitis of the hock. Liquid fed pigs had poorer hygiene scores than dry fed pigs, especially in straw-based housing. Liquid feeding reduced activity level
and investigatory behaviours directed towards other pigs. Pigs with straw spent a large proportion of their time manipulating it. Pigs without straw were less active and spent more time manipulating the pen hardware. In post-slaughter assessments, there were no systems differences in lung
lesions or osteochondrosis, but other measures differed between housing or feeding systems; pigs with straw had more severe toe erosions on the foot, while pigs without straw had more severe heel erosions. Gastric lesions were more pronounced with dry feeding and in the fully-slatted system.
The results highlight the relative health and welfare advantages and disadvantages of these systems for finishing pigs.