There are many different types of indoor housing systems, depending on the needs and size of individual pigs.
Most people are concerned about sows and the practice of confining sows. While some sows are very placid, other sows can be aggressive. Like hens, pigs have pecking orders. This behaviour has to be managed in groups of both male and female pigs, to ensure the overall health and welfare of the pigs is maintained and to avoid the placid or timid pigs being bullied.
The term ‘loose housing’ encompasses a range of group housing alternatives that allows freedom of movement. This means the sow must be able to turn around and extend her limbs.
Some group housing also includes head stalls for protecting the sow while she is feeding. There are safe areas positioned in a larger pen that facilitates sow interaction. These do not confine the sow and she is free to move around and interact with other sows in the pen. Individual pens are permitted, as long as they allow the sow freedom of movement (as pictured below).
In committing to phasing out sow stalls, Australian pig farmers are moving to house their sows in loose housing during their pregnancy. This is a world first initiative and the Australian pork industry has become a world leader in handling and managing sows in group housing situations.