Behaviour of Danish weaner and grower pigs is affected by the type and quantity of enrichment material provided

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Franziska Hakansson, Vibe Pedersen Lund, Marlene Kirchner, Anne Marie Michelsen, Nina Dam Otten

Inappropriate behaviour is known to reduce the welfare of pigs and therefore, determining factors influencing the quality of pig behaviour in commercial systems is of importance. As part of a larger project, this study investigated the effect of selected management parameters on different aspects of the behaviour of weaner- grower (w/g) pigs at 19 integrated Danish farms. Applying the Welfare Quality® protocol (WQ) for growing and finishing pigs, a human-animal relationship (HAR) test, scan samplings of social and exploratory behaviour (SB and EB) and a qualitative behaviour assessment (QBA), both for sows and w/g pigs, were performed at each farm. Additionally, space allowance (WQ), tail biting (WQ), percentage of nursing sows, breed, weaning-age, type and amount of rooting material were collected. From the single measurements, WQ-criteria scores and the corresponding principle score for ‘Appropriate Behaviour’ were calculated according to the latest published version of WQ. Th e relation between selected management factors and the aggregated behaviour scores was tested with the help of Pearson correlations (*/ ** = significance at 0.05/ 0.01 level). The results of this study indicate an effect of rooting material and the percentage of nursing sows on w/g pig's behaviour. The amount of rooting material correlated with results of the HAR test (rp= -0.481*), EB (rp= 0.616**) and the principal score 'Appropriate behaviour' (rp= 0.489*). Thus, a higher amount of rooting material present at observation led to fewer occurrences of fear of humans, higher incidences of exploratory behaviour and consequently, a higher principal farm score. However, the type of rooting material rather than the amount was related to tail biting (rp= -0.675**). Hence, at farms with 'high-value' rooting material (e.g. straw) a lower amount and severity of tail biting was registered. Pigs EB further increased with available pen space (rp= 0.584**). The percentage of nursing sows was positively correlated to the principal score (rp= 0.63**), but also to single behaviour measures. At farms where the sows scored high in the QBA, the w/g pigs did as well (rp= 0.598**). Breed and age of weaning had no statistical effect on the assessed behaviour of w/g pigs. In conclusion, this study found a relationship between certain management factors and the behaviour of w/g pigs and further underlines the importance of rooting material in pig production. This project was financed by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Food.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventCongress of the International Society for Applied Ethology 2016: Standing on the shoulders of giants - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 201615 Jul 2016
Conference number: 50


ConferenceCongress of the International Society for Applied Ethology 2016
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

ID: 193676621