ESF offers several distinguishing features compared with other alternatives to the gestation stall. Our work has identified a variety of opportunities associated with ESF for the improvement of sow herd nutrition and management. This includes:
- Improved feed utilization by the reduction of feed needed to maintain individual animal body condition
- Better matching of feed delivered to changing nutritional needs of sows during gestation through the use of software-controlled feeding curves
- Automated control of gilt estrus via the delivery of Matrix to selected individual animals feeding in the ESF station
- A practical solution to regulating the amount and timing of a feedback program in pen gestation to stimulate immunization against autogenous pathogens
The electronic identification of the sows via a radio-frequency identification tag also opens the door for additional digital management of the herd such as spray marking of animals requiring vaccination or selection of animals to move to farrowing.
Based on these opportunities, we see ESF as perhaps the only alternative to the gestation stall that promises progress in how we will manage pregnant sows in the 21st century.