Space Allowance Influences Nursery Pig Productivity and Behavior

Research conducted by the Prairie Swine Centre has confirmed too little space impacts both the behavior and the productivity of nursery pigs. A study conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc at the Prairie Swine Centre and in commercial settings examined the effect of space allowance on the average daily gain and behavior of nursery pigs. Dr. Jennifer Brown, a Research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, says we know overcrowding impacts growth rates and welfare. [Source:, September 26, 2018, by Bruce Cochrane]

Clip-Dr. Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre:

"In our study at Prairie Swine Centre we didn't have a clear impact of the different spaces on average daily gain but in the commercial farms we were able to study a higher number of pigs and a higher number of pen groups so, in the commercial studies, we actually did see a clear impact of space allowance on the growth of those pigs. Pigs that had less space had lower growth rates and this was particularly evident in the later weeks, like weeks three to five in the nursery stage.

This data actually showed a very good agreement with the K value or the relative space allowance that was put in the Code of Practice and that has been used for finisher pigs. .0335 is actually the breaking point where you start to see a loss in growth in pigs. In the behavior results we saw that there were similar results between the Prairie Swine Centre and the commercial farms.

When we started crowding pigs you would start to see a higher prevalence of sitting behavior and a decrease in what we call lateral laying behavior. These are different behaviors that are related to space use. Certainly sitting requires the least amount of space and that lateral laying behavior requires the greatest amount of space because the pig is laying on its side and stretched out and that behavior is actually associated with greater comfort so less lateral laying indicates that they are also a little but crowded."

Dr. Brown is confident this work will help benefit production long term.