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Institute of

OF Organic Farming


Group suckling

Comparison of single housed versus group housed suckling sows in organic piglet production

The above mentioned project is part of a 5 parts joint project (06oe266) which focuses on nutrition, keeping, desinfection and temperature control in the organic piglet production.

Background and Objective

Group housing of lactating sows is close to natural behaviour and is often favoured by organic farmers and advisors. But there is no scientific information about advantages or disadvantages of group housed sows in organic agriculture, especially with regard to the imponderability of the longer suckling period of organic piglets compared to conventional piglets.

The study will contribute to an evidence-based recommendation concerning group housing of lactating sows in organic agriculture.


To generate respective information a study was designed with the following characteristics: single housed lactating sows (n=74 litters), groups with 3 lactating sows (n=51 litters) and groups with 6 lactating sows (n=39 litters) over a period of more than 3 years, trial start with litter grouping 14 days post natum, trial end at day 63 p. n., 49 days suckling period, grouping rules: maximal difference of 5 days between piglets’ grouping age, no grouping of diseased sows and no sole primiparous sow together with multiparous sows.


The following results were obtained: Group housing is connected with a higher level of activity and disturbance compared to single housing; grouping at three or grouping at six results in nearly the same total level of agonistic behaviour; group housing is leading to specific behavioural adaptions of the sows; there are no differences in piglets’ live weight gain, health status, and loss rates between the three systems; group housing of organic lactating sows causes higher work load and higher construction costs.

It is concluded that the biologic results do not argue against the implementation of a group housing system when it is required by the farmer. For a successful implementation the strict obedience of the above mentioned grouping rules is essential.

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)


9.2007 - 8.2011

More Information

Project funding number: 07oe029
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: finished


  1. 0

    Bussemas R, Weißmann F (2015) Zum Verhalten laktierender Sauen und zur Lebendmasseentwicklung der Ferkel in Einzel- oder Gruppenhaltung mit drei oder sechs Würfen im ökologischen Landbau. Landbauforsch Appl Agric Forestry Res 65(2):119-130, DOI:10.3220/LBF1444639588000

  2. 1

    Bussemas R, Weißmann F (2012) A study on single versus group housed organic lactating sows concerning piglet performance and sow behaviour. Landbauforsch SH 362:285-288

  3. 2

    Bussemas R, Kocerka C, Weißmann F (2011) Die Gruppenhaltung der säugenden Sau kann empfohlen werden. In: Leithold G, Becker K, Brock C (eds) Beiträge zur 11. Wissenschaftstagung Ökologischer Landbau : Es geht ums Ganze: Forschen im Dialog von Wissenschaft und Praxis : Bd. 2, Tierproduktion und Sozioökonomie. Berlin: Köster, pp 130-133

  4. 3

    Bussemas R, Weißmann F, Brandt H (2011) Wohngemeinschaft im Sauenstall. Bio Land(11):23-24

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