Next Article in Journal
Dietary Aspergillus oryzae Modulates Serum Biochemical Indices, Immune Responses, Oxidative Stress, and Transcription of HSP70 and Cytokine Genes in Nile Tilapia Exposed to Salinity Stress
Previous Article in Journal
The Challenge of Illusory Perception of Animals: The Impact of Methodological Variability in Cross-Species Investigation
Article

Positive Human Contact and Housing Systems Impact the Responses of Piglets to Various Stressors

1
The Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
2
Rivalea Australia Pty Ltd., Corowa, NSW 2464, Australia
3
Centre for Animal Science, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD 4072, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Luigi Faucitano
Animals 2021, 11(6), 1619; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061619
Received: 28 April 2021 / Revised: 27 May 2021 / Accepted: 28 May 2021 / Published: 30 May 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
Early life experiences such as contact with humans, maternal care and the physical environment can play a substantial role in shaping behavioural and physiological responses to stress. This experiment studied the effects of lactation housing systems and human interaction on stress in young pigs. We hypothesised that piglets handled in a positive manner and reared in loose farrowing and lactation pens with increased opportunity for interaction with their dam, greater space and more complexity in their physical environment have improved stress resilience than piglets reared in traditional farrowing crates with routine contact from stockpeople. In both housing systems, providing regular opportunities for positive human interaction reduced piglets’ fear of humans and routine husbandry procedures imposed by humans, and reduced the number of injuries obtained after weaning. However, contrary to the expected findings, piglets from loose farrowing and lactation pens were more reactive to capture by a stockperson, more fearful of novel and human stimuli, had more injuries during the lactation period and were more likely to perform behaviours which may be indicative of reduced coping after weaning. Whether these effects are specific to the loose farrowing and lactation system studied in this experiment or are reflective of other loose systems requires further research.
This experiment studied the effects of lactation housing systems and human interaction on piglets’ responses to routine stressors. Forty litters of piglets were reared in either a standard farrowing crate (FC) or a loose farrowing and lactation pen (LP; PigSAFE pen) and received either routine contact with humans (C) or regular opportunities for positive human contact (+HC; 3 min of patting, stroking and scratching 5 times/week). Behavioural and physiological responses to routine husbandry procedures, weaning, novelty and humans were studied in addition to effects on piglet growth, injuries and survival. Compared to C piglets, +HC piglets vocalised for shorter durations (p = 0.018) during husbandry procedures and showed a lower intensity of escape behaviour during iron injection (p = 0.042) and oral vaccination (p = 0.026) at 3 d of age, capture at 2 wk of age (p < 0.001), and intramuscular vaccination (p = 0.005) at 3 wk of age. +HC piglets at 2 wk of age were faster than C piglets to approach (p = 0.048) and interact (p = 0.042) with a stationary unfamiliar human. Compared to LP piglets, FC piglets showed a lower intensity of escape behaviour during capture and iron administration by a stockperson at 3 d of age (p = 0.043). FC piglets at 2 wk of age were faster than LP piglets to approach (p = 0.005) and interact (p = 0.027) with a novel object and approach (p = 0.009) and interact (p = 0.008) with an unfamiliar human. FC piglets had fewer injuries than LP piglets at 2 wk of age (p = 0.004). +HC pigs had fewer injuries than C pigs after weaning (p = 0.003). After weaning there were more pigs from LP than FC observed to be upright (both stationary, p = 0.002 and walking, p = 0.024), vocalizing (p = 0.004), nosing another pig (p = 0.035) and nosing the pen floor (p = 0.038). There were no significant effects on neutrophil:lymphocyte ratios or plasma cortisol concentrations 1.5 h after weaning. However, 25 h after weaning +HC pigs had higher haptoglobin concentrations than C pigs (p = 0.002), and C/LP pigs had higher cortisol concentrations than +HC/LP and C/FC pigs (p = 0.012). There were no significant effects on piglet growth, the number of piglets born alive or the number stillborn, however there were more piglets weaned from FC than LP (p = 0.035). The results from this experiment raise questions that require further research on the ability of pigs reared in loose pens to cope with stressors such as exposure to humans, novelty, husbandry procedures and weaning. This experiment also provides evidence that regular positive human interaction reduces pigs’ fear of humans and husbandry procedures imposed by stockpeople. More research is required to determine if any of these effects are sustained long-term. View Full-Text
Keywords: pig welfare; early life experiences; housing; handling; positive human contact pig welfare; early life experiences; housing; handling; positive human contact
Show Figures

Figure 1

MDPI and ACS Style

Hayes, M.E.; Hemsworth, L.M.; Morrison, R.S.; Tilbrook, A.J.; Hemsworth, P.H. Positive Human Contact and Housing Systems Impact the Responses of Piglets to Various Stressors. Animals 2021, 11, 1619. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061619

AMA Style

Hayes ME, Hemsworth LM, Morrison RS, Tilbrook AJ, Hemsworth PH. Positive Human Contact and Housing Systems Impact the Responses of Piglets to Various Stressors. Animals. 2021; 11(6):1619. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061619

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hayes, Megan E., Lauren M. Hemsworth, Rebecca S. Morrison, Alan J. Tilbrook, and Paul H. Hemsworth 2021. "Positive Human Contact and Housing Systems Impact the Responses of Piglets to Various Stressors" Animals 11, no. 6: 1619. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11061619

Find Other Styles
Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Access Map by Country/Region

1
Back to TopTop