Dynamics of Sows’ Activity Housed in Farrowing Pens with Possibility of Temporary Crating might Indicate the Time When Sows Should be Confined in a Crate before the Onset of Farrowing
Institute of Animal Welfare Science, The University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna), Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
Precision Livestock Farming Hub, The University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna (Vetmeduni Vienna), Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
FFoQSI GmbH, Technopark 1C, A-3430 Tulln, Austria
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 8 November 2019 / Revised: 11 December 2019 / Accepted: 15 December 2019 / Published: 18 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Section Pigs
In natural conditions, before the onset of farrowing, sows build a nest mainly to protect piglets from adverse weather conditions and predators. In modern commercial farms nest-building behaviour is limited, because, during the period of nest building, sows are confined in a farrowing crate. This has a negative effect on sow welfare. Recently, the concept of temporary crating has been introduced to achieve a compromise between the needs of the sow and her piglets. According to this concept, sows could be kept out of the crate at the time of prenatal nest-building behaviour and after the critical period of piglets’ life. In this study, we developed a method to monitor sows’ behaviour on the basis of accelerometer data. The developed monitoring method provides the following two types of alarms: A “first-stage” alarm that indicates the beginning of nest-building behaviour, with a median of 8 h 51 min before the onset of farrowing and a “second-stage” alarm that indicates the end of nest-building behaviour with a median of 2 h 3 min before the onset of farrowing. On the basis of these two types of alarms a farmer can make a decision when to provide adequate nest-building material and when to confine a sow in a crate for protection of the piglets’ welfare.