Welfare, Meat Quality, And Performance Of Pigs Housed In Large-Group, Deep-Litter Systems
ABSTRACT Producers and consumers perceive that group rearing of slaughter pigs in deep bedded hoop barns is more welfare-friendly for pigs and produces pork with more desirable eating quality compared to conventional systems. However, little research supports this perception. Our objectives in two separate experiments were to evaluate the effects of housing system on pig welfare, meat quality, growth of finishing pigs, and economic performance. In Experiment 1, treatments included pigs housed in a confinement barn fed a diet based on corn and soybean meal (CCS); pigs housed in a hoop barn fed the same corn-soybean meal based diet sequence (HCS); and pigs housed in a hoop barn fed a diet based on alternative grains (barley, oats, buckwheat, field peas, and expeller soybean meal; HAG). Daily gain was similar for pigs housed in the hoop barns compared to the confinement barn but HCS pigs consumed about 7% more feed (P < .05) than CCS pigs. Average daily gain and feed/gain were depressed (P < .03) by HAG compared with HCS. A trained sensory taste panel detected no differences in eating quality of loins harvested from pigs in this experiment. In Experiment 2, pigs were housed under the same conditions as Exp. 1 except that all pigs received corn-soybean meal based diets. Focal pigs housed in hoop barns demonstrated more exploratory behaviors in a novel environment. Housing treatment had no effect on eating quality of pork. We conclude that hoop barns reduce efficiency of pig growth, and alter pig behavior but have no effect on quality of pork harvested.