Can Group-Housed Sows Raised at Lower Temperatures?
In this project, an operant mechanism that will allow sows housed in a group system to control their own environmental temperature was developed. Th e mechanism was configured with a manual control switch that the sows can access and operate, which in turn activated the supplementary room heating system, as well as a localized radiant heater above the location of the switch as an immediate reward. Testing of a prototype system installed in a controlled-environment chamber with two sows showed that the mechanism functioned satisfactorily to allow the sows to control their environmental temperature. Preparations for subsequent tests in group-housed sow gestation rooms to assess overall heating cost savings, associated sow behavior, and optimal dietary requirements when raised at lower temperatures are underway.