Renovations at the Swine Educational Unit

Replacement of breeding crates with free-choice pens was the main modification of the breeding barn.

December 7, 2023

2 Min Read
NC State

By Billy Flowers, North Carolina State University

The Swine Educational Unit at North Carolina State University has played important roles in the development of modern swine production practices and training swine industry professionals. Recently, the Department of Animal Science completed its most comprehensive renovation of the Swine Educational Unit since it was built in 1989. The renovations involve the farrowing, gestation and breeding barns and were strategically selected to facilitate evaluation of proposed management recommendations.

Farrowing barn renovations include three different sizes of farrowing crates: one representative of those currently in use on many commercial farms and two with increased lengths and widths which provide the sow and litter additional space during lactation.


Renovations in gestation include the conversion of an entire barn to gestation pens whose dimensions can be changed to accommodate different group sizes in conjunction with a variety of different feeding systems.


Replacement of breeding crates with free-choice pens was the main modification of the breeding barn. The free-choice pens allow sows to choose whether they prefer to spend time in pens as a group or in individual crates, which they can enter and leave freely, but are protected from interactions with other, aggressive sows.


Approximately, 1,200 students in 20 different undergraduate, graduate and veterinary classes use the swine educational unit for laboratory exercises each year. On average, 75 to 100 research products are conducted each year at the unit by faculty members in the Departments of Animal Science; Poultry Science; Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Agricultural and Resource Economics; Biology; Microbiology; Genetics; Clinical Sciences; Biomedical Engineering; Molecular Biomedical Sciences; Population Health and Pathobiology; and Molecular and Structural Biochemistry. The Swine Educational Unit also provides pigs to other universities and both state and federal agencies in support of their education and research activities.

These most recent renovations will allow faculty in animal science and other departments to continue to provide objective evaluations of modern management practices for the swine industry and the general public.

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