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Re-designing the farrowing environment from first principles to optimise animal welfare and economic performance.

  • Project Leader: Professor Sandra Edwards
  • Staff: Dr Philip Cain, Dr Jonathan Guy
  • Sponsors: Defra
  • Partners: SAC

Objectives of the project:

  • To review and synthesise current scientific knowledge on sow and piglet needs and practical experience of existing non-crate farrowing systems, and use economic modelling approaches to characterise the best system prototype(s) based on this information;
  • To consult with expert/ stakeholder groups to refine the prototype(s); 
  • To build and develop the prototype(s), testing structural and management innovations considered likely to improve their performance;
  • To scale up the final best system and test this under commercial conditions against conventional farrowing crates;       
  • To carry out an economic, environmental and trade analysis of the new system based on commercial performance and costs.


This was a 3 year project at Newcastle University and SAC, sponsored by Defra and involving steering group input from BPEX, QMS and RSPCA. Design and construction assistance from Quality Equipment is also gratefully acknowledged. The project began in April 2008 and has now been completed.

A final recommended design criteria has been released along with a spread sheet-based financial model that can be used to estimate the likely cost of production when using free-farrowing systems. You can access the PigSAFE general model instructions‌.‌

A follow-on project to support the roll out of the PigSAFE design across commercial pig farms in the UK has recently begun. 

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