Lab scale research suggests the foot health of loose housed gestating sows can be better maintained by covering concrete floors with rubberized coatings.

As part of lab scale research conducted on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc, scientists evaluated the ability of concrete floor coverings to reduce foot injuries among loose housed gestating sows.

Dr. Qiang Zhang, a professor in Biosystems Engineering with the University of Manitoba, says scientists compared three commercially available rubber mats and two applied products made from recycled rubber.

There’s a whole bunch of mechanical properties affecting pig behavior and the foot health. We have to conduct quite a few tests to actually evaluate different floor mats. Specifically we had to test the hardness of the floor mats and the surface friction of floor mats and also we had to look at the wear resistance in the pig barn. It has to be durable. Pigs are so curious and if it’s not durable then they will eat through it.

The other thing we have to look at is the ease of cleaning. If we put a mat into the pig barn we have to keep it clean, make sure the manure can be washed off easily. We have done a lot of testing in the lab to evaluate all those properties of different floor mats. The mat actually has advantages in terms of hardness. It’s softer and also the friction is a little higher but it’s at the same level. Other things like ease of cleaning and the wear is similar to other flooring material so, based on that, we can see if we put the mats on the floor it’ll benefit foot health but it wouldn’t cause other problems.

~ Dr. Qiang Zhang, University of Manitoba

Dr. Zhang says the next step will be to test these materials in the barn to see if their properties will change over time and to evaluate their durability.