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Article

Is There a Link between Suckling and Manipulation Behavior during Rearing in Pigs?

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Department of Animal Science, Ecology of Livestock Production, University of Goettingen, Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
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Department of Animal Science, Breeding Informatics Group, University of Goettingen, Margarethe-von-Wrangell-Weg 7, 37075 Goettingen, Germany
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Center for Integrated Breeding Research (CiBreed), Albrecht-Thaer-Weg 3, Georg-August University, 37075 Göttingen, Germany
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Faculty of Agriculture, South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences, Lübecker Ring 2, 59494 Soest, Germany
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Department of Animal Production, Agricultural Chamber of North Rhine-Westphalia, Haus Duesse, 59505 Bad Sassendorf, Germany
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Agricultural Test Center VBZL Haus Duesse, Agricultural Chamber of North Rhine-Westphalia, Haus Duesse, 59505 Bad Sassendorf, Germany
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Michaela Fels
Animals 2021, 11(4), 1175; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041175
Received: 1 April 2021 / Revised: 15 April 2021 / Accepted: 16 April 2021 / Published: 20 April 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Behaviour of Pigs in Relation to Housing Environment)
Tail biting, a well-known problem in modern pig production, reduces pigs’ welfare and causes economic losses. It is influenced by several external and internal factors, such as housing condition, management, genetics, and age of the animals. Within the internal factors, the individual predisposition to tail biting is difficult to identify. In our study, we analyzed the manipulation behaviors of weaner pigs and their relationship with agonistic behaviors of the piglets during suckling to identify groups of piglets which showed similar suckling and rearing behaviors. In our experiment tail biting increased at the middle and end of rearing. Most animals were observed as both biters and victims of tail biting. During our observations, we found indications that tail-biting pigs showed mainly submissive behavior in teat disputes. These pigs might compensate their submissiveness by biting tails to chase other pigs from resources with restricted access, such as feed or enrichment material. Further research should consider more aspects of a pigs’ personality suitable for early identification of pigs predisposed for later tail biting. This early identification would allow intervention measures to be taken earlier, thereby reducing tail biting and its consequences.
Inadequate possibilities to perform oral manipulation behavior for pigs can lead to misdirection and thus tail biting. Our study aimed to analyze manipulation behaviors of weaner pigs with focus on tail biting and the relationship with agonistic characteristics of the piglets during suckling. We analyzed the individual manipulation behavior of 188 weaner pigs. General health condition and tail lesions were determined weekly. Correlations were estimated between weight at weaning and at the end of rearing period, frequency of manipulative rearing behaviors and Dominance and social tension index based on suckling behavior. Principal component and cluster analyses were performed to identify groups of piglets which showed similar suckling and rearing behaviors. Tail biting increased at the middle and end of rearing with switching roles of biters and victims. Tail lesions were correlated with received tail biting behavior but occurred with a delay of more than a week. The frequency of performed tail biting was correlated with dominance index (rs = −0.256, p < 0.01) and weaning weight (rs = −0.199, p < 0.05). We assume that performed tail biting is more often observed in pigs who show mainly submissive behavior in teat disputes. View Full-Text
Keywords: pigs; tail biting; suckling behavior; dominance; rearing period; manipulation behavior pigs; tail biting; suckling behavior; dominance; rearing period; manipulation behavior
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MDPI and ACS Style

Warns, F.K.; Gültas, M.; van Asten, A.L.; Scholz, T.; Gerken, M. Is There a Link between Suckling and Manipulation Behavior during Rearing in Pigs? Animals 2021, 11, 1175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041175

AMA Style

Warns FK, Gültas M, van Asten AL, Scholz T, Gerken M. Is There a Link between Suckling and Manipulation Behavior during Rearing in Pigs? Animals. 2021; 11(4):1175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041175

Chicago/Turabian Style

Warns, Friederike K., Mehmet Gültas, Astrid L. van Asten, Tobias Scholz, and Martina Gerken. 2021. "Is There a Link between Suckling and Manipulation Behavior during Rearing in Pigs?" Animals 11, no. 4: 1175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11041175

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