Lab scale research conducted by the University of Manitoba has shown the use of concrete floor coverings has the potential to improve the foot health of loose housed gestating sows.

As part of research conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists with the University of Manitoba evaluated several concrete floor coverings, including three commercially available rubber mats and two applied products made from recycled rubber to reduce foot injuries among gestating sows.

Dr. Qiang Zhang, a professor in Biosystems Engineering with the University of Manitoba, says scientists looked at the hardness and surface friction of the coverings, durability and ease of cleaning.

Concrete flooring is rough and hard and the floor coverings can change the property easily. For example, 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. The other thing is the roughness of the concrete floor. It actually wears off the protecting coat. That’s a hypothesis we put together and the floor mats, if we use the synthetic materials or even rubber then can solve that problem too.

One of the issues we have to look at is the friction of the floor. We actually want high friction on the floor to prevent animals from slipping. The floor mat is soft and could also provide good friction. We looked at what’s available. Those are the one people have been using for other livestock species like for cows and also we looked at some other commercial products.

~ Dr. Qiang Zhang, University of Manitoba

Dr. Zhang says the floor coverings were much softer than the concrete and contributed to improved foot health while providing comparable ease of cleaning and durability. He says the next step will be to take the work from the lab to the barn.