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Penn Vet opens new livestock facilities

A new hospital for horses and new housing for pigs at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.

A new hospital for horses and new housing for pigs at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine.

On Saturday, Penn Vet celebrated the opening of the new James M. Moran Jr. Critical Care Center on the campus of its famed New Bolton Center in Kennett Square (where, you may recall, veterinarians worked valiantly for months to try to save the life of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro). The $14.2 million facility is designed to provide state-of-the-art care and the highest level of biosecurity to minimize the spread of disease.

The facility, funded in part by Elizabeth "Betty" Moran of Paoli, honors her late son, a passionate thoroughbred horseman.

Last month, Penn Vet marked the opening of its Swine Teaching and Research Facility at New Bolton Center. The project, funded in part by a donation from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), provides a more humane model for the housing of pregnant and lactating sows.

The new crate-free technology raises humane standards for animal comfort, feeding and nutrient management, primarily for 200 sows and their piglets. An additional 6,000 square feet of animal space has been added to the existing 10,000 square foot farrow-to-feeder pig facility reflecting two major changes. New farrowing rooms will now completely free of crates. Instead farrowing pens are designed with specific areas for piglet sleeping, piglet nursing/sow laying and sow elimination. The second major change involves the expansion and modification of the gestation area for pregnant sows. The sows now have the opportunity to go outside and may choose from several different styles of bedded areas within pen gestation on which to sleep or lounge. These changes provide opportunities to research the need for bedding, outdoor access and alternatives to the farrowing crate.

"Alternative husbandry systems are of increasing importance to U.S. pig farmers as there is a growing awareness amongst consumers about where their food is coming from,"  said Ines Rodriquez, the veterinarian in charge of swine health and welfare at the center. "Consumers are questioning how the animals raised for food production are reared. Improved animal welfare, minimal environmental impact, and the absence of antibiotics and hormones are all attributes that many modern consumers are seeking."

Nearly 10 percent of sows housed on Pennsylvania farms are using pen gestation systems like those used at the center, according to Penn Vet.