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Animals 2019, 9(1), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9010023

Feeding Strategies Before and at Mixing: The Effect on Sow Aggression and Behavior

1
School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus, Mudla Wirra Road, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia
2
Alltech Lienert Australia Pty, 8 Roseworthy Road, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 November 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 9 January 2019 / Published: 11 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Impact of Environment and Stressors on Animal Welfare)
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Simple Summary

Sows in domestic settings are often mixed into new groups of animals, resulting in the need to form hierarchies, causing aggression and related stress. Restrictively fed gestating sows are unlikely to be sated, and are more likely to view food as a limited resource and to be frustrated and aggressive. Creating satiety in sows as they are mixed may be a simple method to reduce mixing aggression. This experiment assessed the provision of different diets; a standard diet (CON) or high (HI) volume of a “standard” diet, or a diet enhanced with lignocellulose (fiber source) fed before mixing (LC) and at mixing (LCM), was studied. There were treatment effects on fight duration, the number of fights, injuries, condition scores, and time spent eating and drinking. These results suggest that feeding a diet containing 2.5% lignocellulose and a standard diet at a high feeding level for four days post-mixing may affect overall aggression within groups and sow satiety levels. Our data found decreased fight numbers and increased fight duration in the LCM compared to the LC treatment, and therefore, feeding the fiber source before mixing affects aggression levels differently than when fed just after mixing. A further understanding of different fiber sources and how their properties affect digestion and sow satiety would enable critical evaluation and use of fiber sources for benefit in reducing aggression at mixing.

Abstract

Hierarchy formation in domestic sows results in aggression and stress, which might be ameliorated through nutritional satiety. The effect on aggression in group housed, gestating sows provided a standard or high volume of a “standard” diet, or diet enhanced with lignocellulose before, at, and after mixing was studied. Ninety-six Large White cross Landrace weaned sows were allocated to: control diet (CON), high volume diet (HI), and lignocellulose-enhanced diet before and at mixing (LC), and after mixing (LCM) (24 sows per treatment). Sows were housed in stalls for 10 days before mixing, when the CON, HI, and LCM groups were fed a standard diet, and in the LC group, a diet enhanced with lignocellulose at 2.5% was given. At mixing, the CON group continued on a standard diet at 2.5 kg/sow per day, HI were fed the standard diet at 4 kg/sow per day for the first four days and 2.5 kg/sow per day thereafter, and LC and LCM were fed the lignocellulose-enhanced diet at 2.5 kg/sow per day. Behavior, salivary cortisol concentrations, lesion number, and condition were recorded on M0, M1, M6, and M14. Reproduction was assessed using pregnancy rate and progesterone measurements. There were several treatment effects on aggression in the sows following mixing. There were significantly lower fight numbers (CON = 0.34 ± 0.03 Log (1 + x) transformed mean and SEM (1.49 untransformed adjusted mean), LC = 0.31 ± 0.04 (1.14), LCM = 0.42 ± 0.04 (0.28), HI = 0.35 ± 0.04 (1.64); p = 0.001) and longer individual fight durations in the LCM group compared to the CON and LC group (CON = 0.88 s ± 0.07 Log transformed mean and SEM (10.31 s, untransformed adjusted mean), LC = 0.89 ± 0.09 (13.51), LCM = 1.16 ± 0.07 (21.43), HI = 01.03 ± 0.07 (16.42); p = 0.04), and overall higher injury numbers in the LC and LCM groups than the HI. Time spent eating was significantly lower in the CON group than both HI and LC (CON = 7.79 ± 0.37, LC = 8.91 ± 0.38, LCM = 8.49 ± 0.42, HI = 9.55 ± 0.39; p = 0.007). The time spent drinking was also affected by treatment, with more time spent drinking in CON than LC (p = 0.024). The condition score of the sows was affected by diet, with higher condition scores in the HI group than LCM and LC (CON = 2.98 ± 0.11, LC = 2.75 ± 0.10, LCM = 2.74 ± 0.10, HI = 3.12 ± 0.10; p = 0.017). These results suggest that feeding a diet containing 2.5% lignocellulose and a standard diet at a high feeding level for four days post-mixing may affect overall aggression and possibly satiety levels. Our data found decreased fight numbers and increased fight duration in the LCM compared to the LC treatment, and therefore, feeding the fiber source before mixing affects aggression levels differently than when fed just after mixing. A further understanding of different fiber sources and how their physiochemical properties affect digestion and sow satiety would enable critical evaluation and use of fiber sources for benefits in reducing aggression at mixing. View Full-Text
Keywords: behavior; fiber; lignocellulose; mixing stress; satiety behavior; fiber; lignocellulose; mixing stress; satiety
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Greenwood, E.C.; Dickson, C.A.; van Wettere, W.H.E.J. Feeding Strategies Before and at Mixing: The Effect on Sow Aggression and Behavior. Animals 2019, 9, 23.

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