This study was conducted to evaluate a strategy of using feeding stalls to protect low-ranking sows in group-housing systems. Sows (n = 150, parity 1-9) were mixed at weaning in pens of 15 sows. Control pens allowed sows to access feeding stalls for 1 h of feeding daily during the initial 2 d after mixing. Treatment pens allowed sows to access feeding stalls continuously. Social rank was determined based on outcomes of aggressive interactions among sows after mixing. Low-ranking sows used the feeding stalls more frequently (P < 0.01) than highranking sows during the initial 6 h after mixing. Continuous stall access reduced frequency of aggressive interactions (P = 0.05) and, consequently, reduced skin lesions (P = 0.05) of sows in the pen. Neither continuous access to stalls nor social rank affected performance of sows. These results suggest that low-ranking sows used feeding stalls as hiding spaces to escape from aggressive interactions during mixing, which reduced skin lesions caused by aggression and improved the welfare of sows in the group-housing system studied.
- Feeding stalls
- Social rank