There are conflicting reports regarding the effect of farrowing house accommodation on piglet performance. The aim of this investigation was to use a systematic review and meta-analyses to summarise the results of publications that focused on direct comparisons between full confinement conventional crates and various designs of loose-housed farrowing pens from loading until weaning. Literature searches in Scopus, BIOSIS Previews, Cab Abstracts, and Web of Science identified 6695 articles. Twenty-two publications were retained for the systematic review and individual meta-analyses after screening for inclusion criteria. The random effects meta-analyses were performed on crate versus pen for number of piglets born alive, number of stillborn piglets, pre-weaning mortality, and number of piglets weaned. Additionally, the modifiers of confinement length (no confinement from loading until weaning or partial confinement for shorter periods of time in the early stages post parturition), enrichment (no enrichment or enrichment provided), and pen size (small, medium, or large) were examined. There was a 14% increase in the relative risk of piglet mortality in farrowing pens when they were compared with crates (p
= 0.0015). The number of stillborns per litter was not different between the pen and crate. However, when providing enrichment in the pens, there was an increase in stillborns within farrowing crates versus pens (p
= 0.009). There was no overall effect on piglets that were born alive or number weaned. As there is no difference between piglets born alive and mortality is significantly higher in farrowing pens, a reduction in the number of piglets weaned was expected but not observed, which was possibly due to the lack of weaning details provided in the publications. This was the first systematic review and meta-analysis conducted on the performance of farrowing accommodation and identified that farrowing pens do compromise post-natal piglet survival. Future efforts should focus on improving sow comfort in the farrowing crate to maximize both piglet and sow welfare.
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