The transition has also been taking place in or to differentiate Australian producers’ product, to that of overseas competitors.
Dr Roger Campbell told delegates at a recent workshop in Toowoomba, Queensland, that group housing the Australian way was "now virtually a done deal".
Addressing 150 pork producers and industry stakeholders at the recent Pork CRC and APL ‘Successful Group Housing Systems for Dry Sows’ workshop, he said: "Most producers have made the transition and those who are now a couple of years down the track are reporting very satisfactory production levels and, it seems, improved welfare outcomes for sows."
Professor Paul Hemsworth of the Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC), University of Melbourne, and Pork CRC subprogram leader, said domestic pigs, just like their wild relatives, needed to establish a social order or hierarchy, which needed to be done quickly when sows were first mixed.
"Sows need adequate space to avoid other sows and research has shown that space is more important than group size when mixing sows," he said. "Stress will, typically, reduce from day two to nine after mixing, and maximising space allowances, especially up to day two, will help reduce aggression between sows."
According to a manual on mixing sows, produced by Pork CRC, current Australian research indicates that the minimum space allowance for group housed sows is somewhere between 1.8 and 2.4m2 per sow.