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

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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