Peri-parturient changes in behavior in free-ranging domestic pigs

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Hygiene, Section of Animal Behaviour, P.O.B. 345, S-532 00 Skara, Sweden
Applied Animal Behaviour Science (Impact Factor: 1.69). 04/1987; 17(1-2):69-76. DOI: 10.1016/0168-1591(87)90009-8


The behaviour of 6 Swedish Landrace gilts in enclosures of 7 and 13 ha was studied for 7 h per day during 7 days around farrowing time. A significant increase in the frequency of locomotion was recorded 2 days before farrowing. The distances walked, as measured by number of coordinates crossed per day, increased during the same period. Average distances to nearest neighbours increased significantly 1 day before farrowing. The farrowing nests, which were built on the day before farrowing or on the farrowing day, were all situated well away from the normal home range. It is suggested that the motivation for this increase in mobility, with the apparent function to isolate the nest site from the rest of the herd, is the explanation of the increse in activity frequently recorded in sows in pens during the days before farrowing. The functional significance and the practical consequences of these behaviour patterns are discussed.

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    • "It is evident that the behaviour pattern of the ‘modern sow’ to large extent still resembles that of the wild boar [10-12]. Typically the wild boar forms small groups of females, consisting of between two and five adult individuals with offspring. "
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    ABSTRACT: Since January 1 2013, group housing of sows has been compulsory within the European Union (EU) in all pig holdings with more than ten sows. Sows and gilts need to be kept in groups from 4 weeks after service to 1 week before the expected time of farrowing (Article 3(4) of Directive 2008/120/EC on the protection of pigs). The legislation regarding group housing was adopted already in 2001 and a long transitional period was allowed to give member states and producers enough time for adaptation. Even so, group housing of sows still seems to be uncommon in the EU, and is also uncommon in commercial pig farming systems in the rest of the world. In this review we share our experience of the Swedish 25 years of animal welfare legislation stipulating that sows must be loose-housed which de facto means group housed. The two most important concerns related to reproductive function among group-housed sows are the occurrence of lactational oestrus when sows are group-housed during lactation, and the stress that is associated with group housing during mating and gestation. Field and clinical observations in non-lactating, group-housed sows in Sweden suggest that by making basic facts known about the pig reproductive physiology related to mating, we might achieve application of efficient batch-wise breeding without pharmacological interventions. Group housing of lactating sows has some production disadvantages and somewhat lower productivity would likely have to be expected. Recordings of behavioural indicators in different housing systems suggest a lower welfare level in stalled animals compared with group-housed ones. However, there are no consistent effects on the reproductive performance associated with different housing systems. Experimental studies suggest that the most sensitive period, regarding disturbance of reproductive functions by external stressors, is the time around oestrus. We conclude that by keeping sows according to the pig welfare-friendly Directive 2008/120/EC, it is possible to combine group-housing of sows with good reproductive performance and productivity. However, substantially increased research and development is needed to optimize these systems.
    Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 06/2014; 56(1):37. DOI:10.1186/1751-0147-56-37 · 1.38 Impact Factor
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    • "Thereafter, the litter is gradually introduced into the herd. The behaviour of the sow and litter during this stage of nest occupation probably establishes the sow-offspring recognition that is important once social integration has occurred (Jensen and Redbo, 1987). Social integration for the sow and her litter occurs gradually over the next few days. "
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    ABSTRACT: In the U.S.A., housing for the lactating sow and her piglets can be divided into five main areas. Total confinement, defined as the farrowing crate, houses the highest number of sows at 83.4 AE 4.0%. Remaining operations house fewer sows with open buildings that have outside access at 12.4 AE 4.1%, open building with no outside access, 2.9 AE 0.5%, lot with hut or no building, 0.6 AE 0.2% and pasture with hut or no building the lowest at 0.7 AE 0.3% (NAHMS, 2000). In the U.K., it is estimated that around 70% of sows farrow in crates, 27% farrow outdoors in farrowing arks and only 3% farrow in loose-housed indoor systems (BPEX, 2004). Farrowing crates have become widely accepted by the industry for numerous reasons: it has made sow management easier, it allows for a higher stocking density of sows/unit of land and it can help to reduce piglet mortality (Fraser and Broom, 1997). However, the farrowing crate has received criticism due to potential detrimental effects it may inflict on the welfare of the sow. The prevalence of decubital ulcers (Davies et al., 1996; Rountree et al., 1997), behaviours considered maladaptive (Cronin and Wiepkema, 1984; Rushen, 1984; Haskell and Hutson, 1996), and a limitation on allowing the sow complete postural adjustments are a few considerations. The development of an alter-native, economical farrowing system that retains the advantages of the conven-tional farrowing crate could be beneficial to the industry (Collins, 1987). Alternative outdoor swine operations for the gestating sow are increasing in popularity in some countries. In 1975, only 6% of the U.K.'s national herd was housed outdoors. This trend can be seen in other European countries, France now houses 10% of its herd outdoors, and Denmark and Sweden are conduct-ing feasibility studies to determine if their cooler climates would permit
    The Welfare of Pigs, Edited by Jeremy N Marchant-Forde, 01/2009: chapter Welfare of Pigs in the Farrowing Environment: pages 141-188; Springer., ISBN: 978-1-4020-8908-4
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    • "Sows in this treatment did not show pre-farrowing restlessness as they did not show a significant increase in locomotion on the day before farrowing (c.f., Haskell and Hutson, 1994b). This is consistent with the model of Jensen (1988) who hypothesized that the presence or absence of a suitable nest-site regulates the level of pre-far-rowing activity and with the suggestions that the selection of a nest-site (Jensen et al., 1987) and the finding of nest-building material are functions of pre-farrowing restlessness. However, as Fig. 1 indicates, there was a tendency for the sows to perform more locomotion in the day before farrowing than on previous days. "
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    ABSTRACT: Pre-farrowing behaviour in sows consists of a phase of increased restlessness and locomotion, and a phase of nest-building. The aim of the study described here was to determine how the presentation of straw, a relevant nest-building material, affected the expression of pre-farrowing restlessness. This would provide information on the relative contribution of internal and external stimuli to the expression of pre-farrowing behaviour which may allow us to understand better how confinement around farrowing affects the welfare of sows. In treatment 1, six sows were given access to straw on the floor of a 2 × 2 m pen (which had previously been shown to be a preferred farrowing site) in one corner of a 6.5 × 7 m test arena. In treatment 2, twelve sows were given access to straw in a hopper in the opposite corner of the test arena from the home pen. All sows were observed for 8 h per day from 4 days before farrowing was expected until farrowing actually occurred. In treatment 1, sows did not show a significant increase in locomotion compared to previous days (P ≥ 0.05). However in treatment 2, when straw was provided in a hopper, the sows showed a significant increase in locomotion on the day before farrowing (P ≤ 0.01). In treatment 2, five of the sows carried straw from the hopper to another location to use in their nest-building. The pattern of locomotion in the hours before farrowing shown by sows that carried straw was different from those that did not (P ≤ 0.001), although there was no overall difference in the distance walked (P ≥ 0.05). The results indicate that both internal and external factors affect the performance of pre-farrowing locomotion. In addition, it was also concluded that the motivation to perform nest-building behaviour is not particularly substrate-specific, and appears to be redirected at pen fixtures in the absence of more suitable material.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 09/1996; 49(4):375-387. DOI:10.1016/0168-1591(96)01050-7 · 1.69 Impact Factor
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