An installation called one of Europe's biggest for electronic sow feeding (ESF) has been opened briefly to visitors in Spain before being stocked. Located high in the Catalan hills between Lerida and Zaragoza, the project is costed at 4.5 million including the 12 hectares of land it occupies. Penning and feeding equipment supplied by Rotecna will be for 3200 sows, with progeny taken to a nearby nursery site at weaning.

This becomes the latest unit for Spanish production company Cincaporc, that controls about 25 000 sows including 15 000 on its own farms. Herd size was dictated by the maximum now permitted in the Cataluña region. Sow facilities reflect the final adoption of Spanish law requiring new gestation places to be in groups rather than individual stalls.

The place for mating and pregnancy is one of 2 houses running parallel on the 90m wide site (Photo 1). This house is 330 metres long and 28m wide. Heat checking and insemination use 192 stalls in the centre of the building. On either flank of this area are curtain-sided wings prepared with tunnel ventilation and wet-cell pads to combat a dry summer climate of up to 40oC (Photo 2). Pregnant sows will be kept here, in stable groups of 80 animals. Each group has a pair of Intec 6001 ESF stations from German manufacturer Mannebeck. When the set-up in 2 training pens for gilts is taken into account, it means a total of 46 feeding stations in the same building reportedly, more than can be found in any other European country.

A tour of the site arranged by Spanish exporters' association Agragex showed that the grouped sows will lie on solid concrete with a slight 5% slope inside bays surrounded by plastic panels. The rest of the pen area is of concrete slats, including around the V-shaped layout of face-to-face ESF stations. Big 50-inch Exafan extractor fans line the end of the house and additional 36-inch fans are in the side walls for a total air movement rate of 36 000m3/hour. Between every pair of sow yards is a square pen to hold a vasectomised boar for checking on late returns to oestrus. Visits by sows to a window in the pen's side wall are monitored automatically by the antenna of a Mannebeck heat detector unit.