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Animals 2019, 9(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9010006

Factors Influencing Farmer Willingness to Reduce Aggression between Pigs

1
Animal Behaviour & Welfare, Animal and Veterinary Sciences Research Group, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Rd., Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
2
Land Economy Environment and Society Research Group, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), West Mains Rd., Edinburgh EH9 3JG, UK
3
Institute for Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
4
Teagasc, Pig Development Department, Animal & Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, P61 C997 Fermoy Co. Cork., Ireland
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 19 November 2018 / Revised: 12 December 2018 / Accepted: 15 December 2018 / Published: 22 December 2018
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Simple Summary

Aggression between pigs is an important animal welfare issue in commercial farming, and is caused by an unstable social structure due to regular regrouping of unfamiliar pigs. The behavior has been extensively researched and several strategies to reduce aggression have been identified, however, they are not commonly used by farmers in practice. We conducted a survey of 122 UK and Irish pig farmers with the aim of understanding why farmers do not adequately implement aggression control strategies. This was important in order to identify targets for encouraging a change in practice. We found that the majority of farmers mixed pigs at least once during production and had tried at least one mitigation strategy in the past. However, farmers expressed limited willingness to implement strategies in the future, and this was influenced by: (1) their beliefs about the outcome of controlling aggression; (2) their perception of their ability to implement the necessary changes; (3) their perceptions of aggression as a problem and; (4) their views of relevant stakeholder groups. Based on these findings we make important recommendations on how to bridge the gap between research and practice.

Abstract

Aggression between pigs remains an important animal welfare issue despite several solutions existing. Uptake of livestock welfare research relies on various stakeholders being willing to recommend or adopt changes to farm structure or management (e.g., veterinarians, researchers, farmers). This survey provides insight into the attitudes and practices of 122 UK and Irish pig farmers regarding aggression between growing pigs. Our aim was to understand why mitigation strategies are not adequately implemented. The majority of farmers mixed pigs at least once during production and had tried at least one mitigation strategy in the past. Farmers expressed limited willingness to implement strategies in the future, and a structural equation model revealed that this was directly influenced by their beliefs about the outcome of controlling aggression, and their perception of their ability to implement the necessary changes. Willingness was indirectly influenced by their perceptions of aggression as a problem and views of relevant stakeholder groups. Veterinarians had the greatest impact on farmer behavior. We recommend that researchers test research findings in practice, calculate cost-benefits of implementation, and transfer knowledge through various sources. This study showed that structural equation modeling is a valuable tool to understand farmer behavior regarding specific and entrenched animal welfare issues. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; decision-making; farmers; pigs; structural equation model animal welfare; decision-making; farmers; pigs; structural equation model
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Peden, R.S.E.; Akaichi, F.; Camerlink, I.; Boyle, L.A.; Turner, S.P. Factors Influencing Farmer Willingness to Reduce Aggression between Pigs. Animals 2019, 9, 6.

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