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Article

Behavioral Observation Procedures and Tests to Characterize the Suitability of Sows for Loose-Housed Farrowing Systems

1
Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Animal Behavior, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, 30173 Hannover, Germany
2
Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Theodor-Lieser-Str. 11, 06120 Halle, Germany
3
BHZP GmbH, An der Wassermühle 8, 21368 Dahlenburg, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Emma Greenwood and William Van Wettere
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2547; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092547
Received: 30 July 2021 / Revised: 26 August 2021 / Accepted: 27 August 2021 / Published: 30 August 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Importance of Sow Behaviour on Reproductive Outcomes)
In this study, different behavior tests were developed and applied to characterize the behavior of sows against humans and piglets in systems with short-term fixation only. In loose-housed sows, it is of extreme importance that the sows neither attack the stockpersons nor crush their piglets through carelessness. Selecting the sows for the respective traits might show positive effects in a successful realization of these husbandry systems. For example, the Dummy Arm Test simulated catching the piglets. In the Towel Test, the general reaction to unknown stress situations was tested by throwing a towel towards the sow during a resting phase. Another test simulated the emptying of the trough to simulate interaction with humans during a routine procedure. The study showed that the majority of the sows reacted calmly. Nesting and lying behavior were also analyzed, as was the behavior of sows when their litters returned after a short separation. This study showed that the behavioral observation procedures and designed tests are suitable to characterize sows’ behavior towards humans and piglets with regard to traits that are particularly important in systems without fixation.
The objective of the study was to evaluate behavioral observation procedures and tests to characterize sows’ behavior for their suitability for free farrowing systems. Nest building activity (NB), lying-down behavior (LDB), and position after lying down (PLD) were assessed. Four tests were designed to characterize the reaction of sows to a novel object and an unexpected situation (Towel Test, TT), behavior towards humans (Dummy Arm Test, DAT; Trough Cleaning Test, TCT), and behavior towards piglets (Reunion Test, RT). The study was performed on a nucleus farm in 37 batches including 771 purebred landrace sows housed in farrowing pens with short-term fixation. The assessment of NB started 2 days before the expected date of the farrowing. In 56.2% of the observations, the sows showed increased chewing activity on gunnysacks. The LDB and PLD were assessed on days 3 and 19 post partum (p.p.). In 49.1% of the observations, sows showed careful lying-down behavior. In 50.1% of cases, sows preferred the stomach-teats-position when lying down. With the DAT on day 4 p.p., in 89.3% of observations, no or only slight reactions of the sow were documented. The TT and TCT were performed on days 3 and 10 p.p. Strong defensive reactions of animals towards humans were recorded in 4.5% of the observations in the TT, and in 4.0% of the observations in the TCT. In the RT on day 3 p.p., in 61.8%, a joyful response of the sows to the reunion with their piglets was observed. This study showed that the behavioral observation procedures and designed tests are suitable to characterize sows’ behavior towards humans and piglets with regard to traits that are particularly important in systems without fixation. View Full-Text
Keywords: aggression; behavior test; loose-housing; sow behavior; stockmanship aggression; behavior test; loose-housing; sow behavior; stockmanship
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MDPI and ACS Style

Neu, J.; Göres, N.; Kecman, J.; Voß, B.; Rosner, F.; Swalve, H.H.; Kemper, N. Behavioral Observation Procedures and Tests to Characterize the Suitability of Sows for Loose-Housed Farrowing Systems. Animals 2021, 11, 2547. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092547

AMA Style

Neu J, Göres N, Kecman J, Voß B, Rosner F, Swalve HH, Kemper N. Behavioral Observation Procedures and Tests to Characterize the Suitability of Sows for Loose-Housed Farrowing Systems. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2547. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092547

Chicago/Turabian Style

Neu, Julia, Nina Göres, Jelena Kecman, Barbara Voß, Frank Rosner, Hermann H. Swalve, and Nicole Kemper. 2021. "Behavioral Observation Procedures and Tests to Characterize the Suitability of Sows for Loose-Housed Farrowing Systems" Animals 11, no. 9: 2547. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092547

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