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Title Group suckling of sows as a production system on organic farms
Official project number FKZ 03OE379

The practice of combined single and group management of suckling sows, known as “group suckling”, was investigated on 31 organic farms in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Stockmen were interviewed, stables were visited and animals were examined during 3 visits on each farm enterprise, respectively. Group suckling is practiced on 25 farms in old buildings whereby the majority of farms kept 3 sows with piglets in one group suckling unit. The consistent compliance with the turnover schedule res. the planned group size in the group suckling stable is then difficult for farms when the management aim is to keep the age difference between litters grouped low. On many farms, the piglet nest was found to be unsatisfactory with regard to space on offer, heat supply and protection from draft. Post-weaning diarrhea is the main health problem on farms practicing group suckling.

The majority of studied group suckling sows (n=192) was in a good nutritional condition, 18 % were too thin and 8% of studied sows were too fat. Relatively few sows showed pathological changes of the skin caused by housing conditions, whereby the most affected area was the udder of the sows. Only 18 of 203 group-suckling sows behaved anxiously or aggressively.

9.1 piglets per sow and litter were weaned on average. Piglet losses from birth to grouping of sows were 15.6.% on average. The loss rate in the group suckling stable within the period from grouping to weaning was 3.9.%.

Amongst the 31 investigated organic farms, none was opti-mally managed. Plausible correlations between the success criteria biological performance, animal health and human-animal relationship on one side and farm-specific production conditions in the areas housing, management, feeding and watering on the other side could, however, not be determined. It can therefore be deducted that the “success” or “failure” of examined farms with group suckling can rather be attributed to the interaction of different factors than to individual production factors.

Detailed Description



Start of project 01.05.2005
End of project 31.03.2007
Financing/ Donor

BLE Projekt

Project partners

Christel Simantke u. Erhard Aubel; Beratung artgerechte Tierhaltung e.V.
Johannes Baumgartner, Peter Schwarz, Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien, A
Werner Hagmüller, Institut für Biologische Landwirt-schaft und Biodiversität, Wels, A

FiBL project leader/ contact
Research area
Date modified 14.06.2019
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