The forthcoming partial ban on sow stalls in the European Union going into effect on January 1, 2013, could provide a boost in sales for pig breeders with gilts that are already well adapted to the new group housing system, which has been in operation in the UK for more than a decade, according to some companies.

International pig genetics company ACMC said it is expecting sales of its AC1 gilt and grandparent stock to increase substantially in 2013 after the new welfare codes come into force in mainland Europe. “The UK banned sow stalls over a decade ago and many British producers had difficulty adapting to the new system because of fighting, bullying and general aggression among their sows,” said Matthew Curtis, managing director of ACMC. “However, it’s been found that the quiet temperament of the AC1 gilt — which contains genes from the docile and prolific Chinese Meishan breed — means it is well adapted to this system and we have found them easier to mix in group systems than traditional breeds, so they suffer less stress which results in reduced fetal deaths and abortions."

Curtis said that this ability to perform under group-housing systems has already been borne out on mainland Europe, where a 1,000-sow herd belonging to the Taroncher brothers — who farm near Valencia in Spain — are weaning 32.5 pigs per sow per year. The farm is already fully compliant with the new regulations. “It has been suggested that there is increasing interest in selecting pigs for behavioral traits," said Curtis. "Less aggressive finishing pigs convert their feed better because their energy is diverted to growth rather than fighting."