Sow Stalls

Last updated 14 September 2020

A sow stall (gestation stall) is a metal pen where pregnant sows are forced to live during pregnancy. The stalls are not much larger than the sows, only allowing approximately 1 step forward or backward and no room to move from side to side at all or turn around. While for many years, sows could legally be kept in sow stalls for their entire sixteen week (4 month) gestation before being moved to farrowing crates for another 6 weeks, this has changed in recent years. The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs (3rd edition: 2008) requires that 10 years after a state has endorsed it, the maximum time sows can be kept in sow stalls during their pregnancy must be reduced to six weeks. This came into effect for each state as follows:

  • NSW: 1 July 2017
  • VIC: 20 April 2017
  • QLD: 27 May 2016 (maximum of 12 weeks between original 2012 legislation and amended 2016 legislation)
  • WA: 21 July 2018 (10 years following adoption of the Model Code by way of amendment to the Animal Welfare Regulations 2003)
  • SA: 20 April 2017 (amendment to original 2012 legislation)

As of 1 July 2013, Tasmania has limited the use of sow stalls to a maximum of 10 days per oestrus cycle for the purpose of mating or 5 days following the final mating, or:

  • Under veterinary direction
  • Up to 3 hours per day for the purpose of feeding, veterinary treatment or husbandry procedures, or cleaning of the sow's pen.

 Farrowing crates still subject sows to extreme and lengthy confinement.

The Australian Pork industry committed to a voluntary phase-out of sow stalls by 2017; however, investigation has confirmed that several farms in Australia still use them as of 2020. 

Sow stalls have largely been replaced by ‘loose’ or ‘group’ housing. Individual pens are still permitted to be used in loose housing systems. This system allows female pigs to move in and out of the sow stalls and into a small area with other females, still within a confined space in large sheds. This method leads to more fighting between sows.


The minimum legally required space for a sow kept in a sow stall is floor space of 0.6m wide and 2.2m long.