Rubber covering on concrete floors could improve the foot health of gestating sows in loose housing, a Farmscape article said yesterday .
University of Manitoba scientists analyzed a variety of floor coverings intended to decrease the number of foot injuries among gestating sows. Two of the coverings were made from recycled rubber, while three were commercial rubber mats.
Researchers examined the firmness and the surface friction of the rubber coverings, as well as their durability and cleaning processes, Dr. Qiang Zhang, a biosystems engineering professor at the university, said in the Farmscape article.
“Concrete flooring is rough and hard, and the floor coverings can change the property easily,” he said in the article. “If we put a relatively soft floor mat on the floor, then that provides a cushion when the animals walk on it and there will be less stress on the foot.”
Scientists also focused on issues of friction, Zhang said.
“We actually want high friction on the floor to prevent animals from slipping. The floor mat is soft and could also provide good friction,” he said.
Looking at available options, such as floor coverings used in other livestock barns, is an option, he added.
The results of Dr. Zhang’s engineering studies “look promising,” Dr. Jennifer Brown, research scientist-ethology, Prairie Swine Centre, told Farms.com.
“So the next stage, if more work is funded, will be to test the flooring with animals,” she said. “Rubber could potentially increase sow comfort and reduce lameness. It has long been used in the dairy industry, and has resulted in improvements to foot and leg health.”
It is uncertain how durable rubber mats will be for pigs, she added.
“If the rubber can be removed by pigs, then they will likely chew or root it up. Using rubber flooring for pigs is therefore much more challenging than for most other livestock: it needs to be compatible with slatted floors to facilitate manure removal, and resistant to destruction,” she explained.
The scientists conducted this research on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc.
Updated Oct. 31, 2018.