Inappropriate or poorly maintained slatted floors are the most common causes of physical injuries to pigs. Pigs with foot or joint pain will not get up as often to eat and drink resulting in lower Average Daily Gain and reduced performance. The industry movement to group gestation housing also means better flooring is necessary to prevent injuries to heavy sows in open pens. By some estimates, lame sows can cost producers from $180 -$400 for each animal suffering from foot-related problems.
Well designed slats promoting good animal welfare possess several common characteristics. They are manufactured from high-density concrete, have a level, flat top for ease of walking and a uniform slat opening.
Manufacturing high quality begins with the slump of concrete. The less water added to the concrete, the stronger the slat. Dry-cast concrete, having a zero slump, only uses enough water to begin the chemical reaction. When excess water is added to make the concrete easier to form, the excess moisture evaporates; creating pores in the concrete and reduces its strength and durability. The lower cement-water ratio in dry cast slats yields a finished product with higher strength and durability with fewer repairs needed over its useful life.
Dry cast, machine-finished slat production requires fewer molds than comparable wet cast, hand-finished slats. Fewer molds mean less variation and a more consistent final product with a flat, level top and uniform slat openings. The level surface provided by flat top slats reduces joint injuries from twisting and slipping on uncomfortable floors. Uniform slat openings prevent the pigs' legs from getting caught in a narrowing opening and damaging their toes and claws. Keep slats in good condition by using quick setting, abrasion resistant mortars to repair any exposed aggregates as normal wear occurs. Cover surfaces around feeders and waterers with an epoxy overlay coating to protect the concrete from acid compounds and heavy pig traffic. For more information on repairing concrete slats download “The Field Guide To Slat Repair and Replacement.”
Well made concrete slats and proper maintenance provide pigs and sows with comfortable flooring to reduce foot and leg injuries.