Management of a Crated or Tethered Gestating Sow


In these environments, the pig has no control over its environment.  The stockperson must provide for all of the pig’s requirements.  If the stockperson cannot achieve this, alternative systems must be adopted.


Daily provision

Length of the stall

Ensure daily that the stall or resting area of a tethered sow is long enough for the sow or gilt.  It is not acceptable to tie the end gate open or have the sow backend over the edge of the lying area.  If the sow appears too long she must be moved immediately

Floor Overlong sow crate

No drafts

The sow cannot move away from any undesirable air movements.  The stockperson is duty bound to remove all drafts immediately.  Abortions are likely when sows are housed in a draft.  The photograph shows a broken window – not fixed for 4 weeks.

Air broken window

Ambient air temperature – cooling and heating

The sow cannot find an environment that is comfortable.  It is essential that the stockperson provide air temperatures, which are acceptable.  A sow is heat stressed above 18C.  One way to check that the sows are comfortable is to quietly enter the gestation house in the mid afternoon and look at the sows – some 95% should be lying on their sides.  The photograph shows an evaporative cooling system, which is not working 100%.

Air evaporative cooling

Encourage the sow to rise

Sows should be encouraged to rise at least twice a day.  Walking the boar in the afternoon to heat check will encourage sows to rise, urinate and defecate.  This is essential for good health.

Repro AI boar stim5

Examine the sow daily

Look for signs of lameness, injury, sore feet or legs, swellings or granuloma.  Any animals found to be sick or injured needs attention, which may involve removing the sow to a hospital area.

Leg granuloma

Water supplies

Ensure that every sow has adequate water supplies.  This includes both access to a drinker or trough, but depth and flow of water.  The photograph shows a drinker that was difficult for the sow to approach.  The drinker has been broken and was badly fixed.

Water gestation poor

Feed supplies

Ensure that the sow receives her daily feed requirements.  Ensure that there is no mold in the feed provided.  It may be necessary to provide fibrous material in the afternoon to reduce boredom.   Manage the feeders to reduce waste feed.

Feed forward trough

Reproductive status

Daily every gestation sow should be checked for signs of oestrus and for possible abortion.  Heat checking with the boar once a day greatly helps this observation

Repro large vulva old sow

Twice a week

Check tethers

At least twice a week check the tethers and adjust as necessary

Sow tethers

Every two weeks

Check the floor’s integrity

Examine each floor area every two weeks.  Remove sows living on inadequate flooring and repair or replace the broken/worn flooring.  The photograph shows totally unacceptable slats.

Floor damaged slats

Body score sows

Body score every sow and adjust the feed availability appropriately.  There are methods of trickle feeding sows within stalls to help control stealing and bullying from other sows.

Feed dry sow measure

Metal work

Check the integrity of all metalwork that the sow has access too.  If the crate or stall has sharp areas, remove the sow and repair the stall.  It is not acceptable to see sow’s with skin injuries from rough paintwork.

Floor stall divider poor 1

Feed pipes

Check all the feed pipes to ensure at no food is being wasted through cracks or gaps.  Ensure that the feed pipe ends are not sharp or rough which may injure the sow

Feed brokendownpipe


Check that all the lights work and the light intensity is appropriate.  Replace all broken lights and clean dirty lamps.  Gilts in the breeding area require 500 lux of light, 16 hours on and 8 hours off to maximize breeding and oestrus.

Air light not working


Review sow movements

It is imperative that sows and gilts are not moved between days 3 and 28 after breeding.

Sow gestation 1

Pregnancy diagnosis accuracy

Ensure that the pig flow is accurate and that all pregnancy diagnosis machines are working and accepted protocols are being followed.

Pregnancy checking


Overall examination of the whole house 

This particular photograph shows a stall house where the floor was placed wrong with the solid part of the floor under the sow’s vulva and Vulval discharges were created because of this poor layout.

FLoor layout poorsows



Stalls, crates and tethers are perfectly acceptable alternatives to other gestation housing systems, when the animals are provided with good stockmanship.  However, with inadequate, poorly trained, poor or inconsiderate stockmanship, the system is extremely unforgiving to the animal.


Canadian advice indicate that a minimum of 10% of the stalls should be 70 cm wide, 30% 65 cm wide and no more than 15% be 55 cm wide.