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Rubber slat mats could improve animal well-being

July 31, 2013
American Society of Animal Science
Animal scientists and producers are testing new kinds of flooring to improve animal health. Rubber slat mats are one option that could help pregnant sows avoid joint problems and circulatory issues.

New research shows that rubber slat mats could improve swine health. In a new study in the Journal of Animal Science, researchers in Europe studied how different types of flooring affects claw and limb lesions, locomotion and flooring cleanliness.

According to the researchers, flooring is one of the main factors in production systems that cause locomotory problems in swine. Locomotory problems can be caused by joint injuries or by circulatory problems in the legs and feet.

Julia Calderón-Díaz, a PhD candidate at University of College Dublin, said pregnant sows placed on cushioned flooring would have a lower risk of being lame compared with sows placed on concrete.

In this experiment, researchers studied the effects of two types of flooring on pregnant gilts in Ireland. One hundred sixty-four pregnant gilts were divided into two groups. One group was housed on concrete slatted floors, and the other group was housed on concrete slatted floors covered in rubber slat mats.

The researchers scored locomotion and claw and limb lesion of the replacement gilts and flooring cleanliness periodically. The replacement gilts were observed from the time they were bred until 110 days into their pregnancy.

Dr. Alan Fahey, a lecturer at the University College Dublin said the gilts were studied during two pregnancies. The results were similar during both pregnancies. Sows housed on rubber mats had a reduced risk of swelling and wounds on the limbs. However, the rubber mats increased the risk of sole and heel lesions.

Calderón-Díaz said these lesions were possibly caused by slurry accumulation over the rubber mats. She said these lesions were not severe and could be addressed through modifications of the rubber slat mats.

In the European Union, pregnant sows must be group housed four weeks after breeding until one week before farrowing. This rule has been in effect since January. Calderón-Díaz said other countries are likely to use group housing for pregnant sows in the near future.

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Materials provided by American Society of Animal Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. J. A. C. Diaz, A. G. Fahey, A. L. KilBride, L. E. Green, L. A. Boyle. Longitudinal study of the effect of rubber slat mats on locomotory ability, body, limb and claw lesions, and dirtiness of group housed sows. Journal of Animal Science, 2013; 91 (8): 3940 DOI: 10.2527/jas.2012-5913

Cite This Page:

American Society of Animal Science. "Rubber slat mats could improve animal well-being." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 July 2013. <>.
American Society of Animal Science. (2013, July 31). Rubber slat mats could improve animal well-being. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from
American Society of Animal Science. "Rubber slat mats could improve animal well-being." ScienceDaily. (accessed May 27, 2024).

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