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Open AccessArticle

Equipping Farrowing Pens with Straw Improves Maternal Behavior and Physiology of Min-Pig Hybrid Sows

College of Animal Science and Technology, Northeast Agricultural University, Harbin 150030, China
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Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors equally contributed to the work.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 105; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010105
Received: 17 October 2019 / Revised: 26 December 2019 / Accepted: 30 December 2019 / Published: 8 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Proceedings of the 3rd World Conference on Farm Animal Welfare)
This study used different sow breeds combined with an enriched environment to relieve stress and to improve the welfare level of sows. Both groups of sows were in loose-housed pens. Sows living in a barren environment (BE) without straw were compared with sows in farrowing crates that received 3.5 kg of straw daily (enriched environment (EE)). Compared with BE sows, EE sows showed more nest-building behavior prior to farrowing, more nursing behavior, and less ventral recumbency behavior during the first three days postpartum. Furthermore, compared with BE sows, EE sows tended to have higher concentrations of serum oxytocin and prolactin, while the concentration of cortisol was lower, suggesting an increase in maternal behavior and a reduction of stress in this group. In addition, the concentration of oxytocin and both the frequency and duration of prepartum nest-building behavior were higher in Duroc × Min and Landrace × Min sows compared with Landrace × Yorkshire sows. However, the concentration of prolactin was significantly lower in both Duroc × Min and Landrace × Min sows than in Landrace × Yorkshire sows, indicating that hybrid sows of Min-pig inherited good maternal characteristics. Based on these results, straw enrichment improved Min-pig hybrid sow welfare during farrowing and lactation.
This study investigated the effects of two factors, enriched environment (EE) and different crossbreeds, on the maternal behavior and physiology of Min-pig hybrid sows. The analysis was performed on a total of 72 multiparous sows, including Duroc × Min pig (DM), Landrace × Min pig (LM), and Landrace × Yorkshire (LY) sows, using a total of 24 sows per cross. The sows were housed in two different farrowing pens, one with straw (EE) and one without straw (barren environment (BE)). The results showed that nest-building behavior, including the frequency, total duration, and bout duration, was significantly higher in EE sows than in BE sows (p < 0.01). The frequency and duration of prepartum nest-building behavior were higher in DM and LM sows than in LY sows (p < 0.0001). During the first three days postpartum, EE sows spent a shorter time in ventral recumbency compared with BE sows (p < 0.05). The oxytocin (p < 0.05) and prolactin (p < 0.01) concentrations of EE sows were significantly higher than in BE sows; however, the concentration of cortisol followed the opposite (p < 0.01). The concentration of oxytocin was significantly higher in DM and LM sows than in LY sows (p < 0.01). In conclusion, both EE increased the expression of hormones related to parental behaviors and prenatal nesting and nursing behavior of sows. Furthermore, an EE can also reduce stress in sows. Min-pig hybrids may inherit highly advantageous characteristics of maternal behavior of Min-pig sows. View Full-Text
Keywords: enriched environment; min-pig hybrid sow; maternal behavior; physiology enriched environment; min-pig hybrid sow; maternal behavior; physiology
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Wang, C.; Han, Q.; Liu, R.; Ji, W.; Bi, Y.; Wen, P.; Yi, R.; Zhao, P.; Bao, J.; Liu, H. Equipping Farrowing Pens with Straw Improves Maternal Behavior and Physiology of Min-Pig Hybrid Sows. Animals 2020, 10, 105.

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