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A preference-testing apparatus was used to provide sows with continuous access to three identical farrowing crates, each with a different type of flooring. The crates radiated from a central hub area sufficiently large for sows to enter or leave any crate freely. In exp. 1, nine sows from a concrete-floored gestation room were offered crates over concrete, plastic-coated rod, and galvanized metal rod. In exp. 2, sows were pre-exposed for a period of 1 wk to one of the three floors before entry into the preference testing apparatus. Video recording was used to determine sow position from 3 d before to 13 d after farrowing in exp. 1 and for a 3-d period before and 3-d period after farrowing in exp. 2. In exp. 1, sows showed a strong preference (P < 0.05) for the concrete floor before farrowing, but this preference had diminished by the final the apparatus (P ≈ 0.16). In exp. 2, sows pre-exposed to metal or plastic-coated flooring made more voluntary use of these products, but the metal floor was strongly avoided during and immediately after farrowing. Overall, concrete seemed to be a preferred floor material for sows at farrowing.


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