The use of gestation crates in swine production is nothing new, but has come to be a concern in recent years. Gestation crates are stalls where sows or gilts are held for breeding time and through the gestation or pregnancy periods of there life. Although they are a very good way for farmers to house and manage their breeding stock, their are concerns about animal welfare for the animals. The use of gestation crates is legal, and is actually a good way to keep very close attention and care of all the females. The females have complete access to fresh water at all times, and are fed regularly to maintain a healthy body weight for the animal.
There are other options that can be used to house animals during the breeding and gestation periods. For example, open pens can be used where a group of females run together. Some people may think this is better because the animals are able to have a whole pen to be in instead of a crate. This may sound better at first, but there are definitely down falls to open pen groups. For example, the females will fight especially when first put together, and are at risk for injury. This fighting can also lead to late term abortions. In these group settings, the females are all fed together, and some of the females may be faster eaters than others. Some of the animals will get way more food than the others and some could be shorted food. This could be very bad for the health of the animals and cause illness or abortions due to improper nutrition. Most breeding in swine is done through the use of Artificial Insemination. The employees in a pen setting are more at risk for injury with other animals all around them then they are when breeding in a gestation crate scenario.
When the females are penned individually in gestation crates, the farmer is better able to keep a close eye on each animal and track when something is not right. Each animal may eat more or less than other animals in the building. When penned individually, farmers can make sure that each one gets the adequate nutrition balance that it needs. If the animal does not eat their feed for example, the farmer knows that the animal could be sick and take action to treat the animal. In terms of breeding, the employee is much safer when breeding in a gestation crate.
I do understand that there are many concerns with gestation crates and if they are humane. However, when you look at the threats and benefits, I believe that the animals are safer and better managed in a gestation crate. I believe that their diet is more precise and is better monitored as well in a gestation setting. Overall that animals are healthier and safer in a gestation crate than they are in other possible scenarios.
My name is Ryan Hildebrand and I am a Senior at Western Illinois University. I am originally from Payson IL, and I was born and raised on a grain and livestock farm. I am Majoring In Agriculture Business with a minor in Animal Science. I currently serve as the Vice President Of Alpha Gamma Sigma agricultural fraternity.