According to the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs (2014) Assessing body condition using a Body Condition Score (BCS) system is a useful management tool that
helps to evaluate health and welfare, assess nutritional status, and optimize production. Typically, the 5-point BCS scale is used with a score of 1 referring to “too thin”, and a score of 5 referring to “too fat”, and 3 as “ideal”.
It is important to consistently assess sow body condition at critical points in the production cycle:
- at weaning – sow is likely to be in her poorest condition. Condition at weaning can vary considerably
- at service – it is important for sows to regain condition that may have been lost since farrowing and weaning
- mid-gestation – helps to determine whether the feeding strategy is optimal, either for the individual sow, or for the herd as a whole. Allows for corrective action, if necessary, to be taken before farrowing
- at farrowing – helps to assess whether the feeding strategy during gestation was successful in meeting the target condition.
With group housing systems that house sows in small pens, employees will have to develop means to properly manage BCS and observation protocols for sows housed in groups. Managing BCS will be directly linked to initially penning sows of similar size and BCS and feeding them accordingly. Observation protocols must be developed to identify females that may be becoming lame or that have been injured so that treatment can begin early in the onset of the condition. Ideally, sows should be treated within their pen groups and remain in their pen groups during the course of their treatment. If a female must be removed from the pen, she should be moved to an area where she can recover without further aggressiveness from other sows. Compromised sows could be moved to individual stalls used to treat sows or small pens to house individual sows. Producers should provide employee training that will improve employees’ ability to identify sows soon after they become injured and to provide aggressive medical care and treatment so as to keep sows in their pen groups and minimize the number of sows that have to be housed individually because of condition, illness or injury.