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Review

Soiling of Pig Pens: A Review of Eliminative Behaviour

1
Department of Veterinary Medical Sciences, University of Bologna, 40064 Ozzano Emilia, Italy
2
Wageningen Livestock Research, Wageningen University & Research, 6708 WD Wageningen, The Netherlands
3
Adaptation Physiology Group, Department of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University & Research, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands
4
Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behaviour, University of Veterinary Medicine, 30173 Hannover, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2025; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112025
Received: 22 September 2020 / Revised: 23 October 2020 / Accepted: 29 October 2020 / Published: 3 November 2020
(This article belongs to the Collection Behaviour of Pigs in Relation to Housing Environment)
The soiling of pig pens has important negative consequences in terms of animal welfare, health, workload, and environmental emissions of pig farming. The aim of this review is to present the state-of-the-art regarding pigs’ normal eliminatory behaviour (i.e., defaecation and urination) and pen soiling, aimed here at solving pen-soiling problems in existing systems, and in a following publication aimed at the design of a more sustainable pig-farming system. To this end, we summarize a large body of literature on pen soiling and pigs’ eliminative behaviour in different farming systems. We propose a “disease framework” interpretation of pen soiling, to help identify its causes, underlying mechanisms, and solutions.
This is a comprehensive review on the pigs’ normal eliminatory behaviour (i.e., defaecation and urination) and pen soiling. This review is aimed primarily at solving issues with pen soiling in current systems, and ultimately at the future design of a well-functioning pig toilet, which we intend to elaborate on in a subsequent publication. In this paper, first, normal elimination is described in relation to what is known about its phylogeny, ontogeny, causation, and function, i.e., according to Tinbergen’s four why questions concerning animal behaviour. Then, pen soiling is described as if it were a medical disorder, highlighting its importance, aetiology, symptoms, diagnosis, pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention. Due to its negative consequences in terms of animal welfare, health, workload, and environmental emissions, possible methods to address pen soiling in current systems are described. Probably, pigs do not choose a specific place to eliminate but rather choose the most comfortable place for resting, and avoid eliminating there. We identified four main strategies to reduce pen soiling: (1) reducing the suitability of the designated elimination area to be used for other functions, especially resting or thermoregulation; (2) improving the suitability of other functional areas in the pen to be used for their specific function, such as resting and activity; (3) reducing the suitability of other functional areas to be used for elimination; and (4) improving the suitability of the elimination area for elimination. These prevention strategies and the encompassing disease framework provide a structured approach to deal with pen soiling in existing systems and to support the future design, development, and implementation of a well-functioning pig toilet that can help to achieve some of the main goals of modern pig production, namely reducing environmental emissions as well as substantially improving pig welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; pigs; eliminative behaviour; defecation; pen soiling; hygiene animal welfare; pigs; eliminative behaviour; defecation; pen soiling; hygiene
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MDPI and ACS Style

Nannoni, E.; Aarnink, A.J.A.; Vermeer, H.M.; Reimert, I.; Fels, M.; Bracke, M.B.M. Soiling of Pig Pens: A Review of Eliminative Behaviour. Animals 2020, 10, 2025. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112025

AMA Style

Nannoni E, Aarnink AJA, Vermeer HM, Reimert I, Fels M, Bracke MBM. Soiling of Pig Pens: A Review of Eliminative Behaviour. Animals. 2020; 10(11):2025. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112025

Chicago/Turabian Style

Nannoni, Eleonora, André J.A. Aarnink, Herman M. Vermeer, Inonge Reimert, Michaela Fels, and Marc B.M. Bracke. 2020. "Soiling of Pig Pens: A Review of Eliminative Behaviour" Animals 10, no. 11: 2025. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112025

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