Circular Farrowing Crate Saves Pigs

A home-built circular farrowing crate reduces crushing of baby pigs and keeps both pigs and sows healthier, says Frank Hilbing, Welland, Ont., who has built eight circular crates for his hog barn.

"Sows can't slide down the curved sides of these crates the way they do in rectangular crates, so they tend to lie down more slowly and carefully," notes Hilbing. "Pigs have plenty of room to get out of the way and a warm cozy creep area for sleeping. Since installing the round crates we've reduced preweaning mortality by 20%, some of which is due to the slatted floor which helps keep both sows and piglets cleaner. We have less trouble with diarrhea and infections than we do in our rectangular crates with solid floors. In fact, we've even moved sickly babies from our rectangular crates into the round crates. They improve and start growing right away in the cleaner environment, gaining 10 to 15% faster."

In addition to improved health, round crates require less space. "We had been using only conventional rectangular far-rowing crates but they didn't fit well in our barn. The round farrowing crates take up less room, allowing us to put more sows in the same amount of space."

The round crates are 5 1/2 ft. in dia. and 40 in. high. Each crate is equipped with a pull-out wood gate, a steel folding feed trough and a water nipple.

Crates are laid out side by side, with each pair covering a 6 1/2 by 14-ft. slatted floor that overlays an 18-in. deep pit. The paired-up crates are divided by a diagonal plywood board. Floor slats between the crates are covered with plywood to serve as the creep area. A corner of this solid floor extends into the crate.

The farrowing section of Hilbing's hog barn is 30 ft. long and 30 ft. wide with a 3-ft. wide alley down the middle, leaving 13 1/2 ft. on each side of the alley. On one side of the alley are six conventional rectangular farrowing crates, each 5 ft. wide and 13 ft. long, over a solid floor with gutter. On the other side of the alley, in the same space, Hilbing installed eight round farrowing crates.

There's one manure pit for every two crates, and it's normally emptied once every two months. Round farrowing crates can only be used with a liquid manure system and slatted floors or manure removal would be too difficult, says Hilbing, who attaches a metal shield to the crate's vertical rods to keep manure out of the creep area.

Crates are built out of two 5 1/2-ft. dia. circles of 1-in. hollow steel tubing joined by 30-in. high, 1/2-in. dia. vertical steel rods, spaced 6-in. apart. A support frame holds the crate sides 10 in. above the slatted floor, for an overall pen height of 40 in. "The 10-in. space at the bottom of each circle gives the pigs plenty of room to move in and out of the farrowing crate and to escape on any side when the sow lays down," says Hilbing.