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ECOPORCDEMO: Management strategies in farrowing and weaning in organic pig production to increase welfare and sustainability

Starting date: 01/12/2021 End date: 17/06/2024
Programme: Animal Welfare

Financing entities:




Activity funded through operation 01.02.01 Technology Transfer of the Rural Development Programme of Catalonia 2014-2022.



Organic pig production in Catalonia is still in a minority situation, although promoting more sustainable farming systems is one of the main objectives of Sustainable Development. Some of the limiting reasons are technical problems such as a high incidence of neonatal mortality or post-weaning diarrhoea, which compromise economic sustainability. The aim of the demonstration activity is to jointly address two critical stages for the piglet (maternity and weaning), promoting strategies that allow greater survival and resilience, and increase welfare and sustainability. In the maternity stage, the aim is to improve a prototype farrowing pen by administering materials that increase the nesting behaviour and learning strategies acquired by the piglets in the use of the nest. In weaning, different socialisation strategies are to be implemented in group, small group or large group lactation. These innovative activities will allow the elaboration of didactic and informative materials, including a video for two participatory virtual visits to the farm.


The general objective of this demonstration activity is to evaluate strategies to improve the survival and resilience of piglets in the maternity and weaning stage in organic production, based on improvements in the management of the nests and the possibilities of socialisation and grouping of the piglets after weaning.

This project is based on previous experiences carried out by IRTA in the framework of two grants in organic production, under commercial conditions, to the company Llavora, S.L., in which the following were compared:

– Three different types of brooders, evaluating different elements for an optimal design, with the aim of reducing neonatal mortality. Currently, Llavora has developed a commercial prototype of this optimised farrowing machine, which is what would be implemented and would like to improve in this demonstration activity.
– Different feeding strategies in piglets after weaning, with the aim of optimising diet transition at this stage and reducing post-weaning diarrhoea. The results showed that the use of whey provided benefits in terms of growth and the composition of the intestinal microbiota.
The innovation that we want to contribute, taking these previous results as a starting point, is to improve the nest management system in the farrowing cows and the materials for nesting in sows and to test different grouping systems at the time of weaning (small group, large group and group socialised previously in lactation), to increase the survival of the piglets and the sustainability of the system.


Description of actions

1) Encouraging nesting behaviour and piglet survival depending on the type of litter administered.
2) Nest management.
3) Effect of socialisation and group weaning strategy.
4) Analysis of results and reporting
03. Sectoral and/or territorial impact

This project is applied in the field of organic pig production in Catalonia, specifically at the level of maternity and transition, improving the management of nests in farrowing crates and nesting materials, as well as studying the best system for grouping piglets at weaning to reduce their mortality and increase their welfare and productive efficiency.