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Open AccessArticle

Sow-Piglet Nose Contacts in Free-Farrowing Pens

Institute of Animal Welfare Science, University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, Veterinaerplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria
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Animals 2019, 9(8), 513; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9080513
Received: 30 June 2019 / Revised: 25 July 2019 / Accepted: 25 July 2019 / Published: 31 July 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Positive Aspects of Animal Welfare)
The mother–offspring interaction is important for the young’s development, yet it is rarely taken into account in farm animals for whom restricted contact and early separation from the mother are common. Nose-to-nose contact is a poorly understood form of social interaction between pigs. We investigated the occurrence and type of nose-to-nose contacts and whether and why it could differ between sows and piglets. Twenty-two sows and their 249 piglets were observed in free-farrowing pens for the first three weeks of the piglets’ life. Sows and their piglets made nose contact with each other every 10 min, on average. Heavier piglets made more nose contact with the sow than lighter piglets in their first week of life. Unexperienced mothers nosed their piglets more in the second week of the piglets’ life. Allowing sows and piglets to freely make nose contact may improve mother–young relationships and piglets’ development, possibly benefiting animal welfare and productivity.
Nose contact is a frequent form of social behaviour in pigs, but the motivational reasons underlying this behaviour remain unclear. We investigated the frequency, direction and type of sow–piglet nosing behaviour and its association with sow and piglet traits. Social nosing behaviour was recorded by live observations and video recordings in 22 sows and their 249 piglets in free-farrowing pens once weekly during the first three weeks after farrowing (3 times 30 min of observations per litter). Piglet-to-sow nosing occurred on average 32.8 ± 2.35 times per 30 min per litter. Heavier piglets at one week of age nosed the sow more than lighter piglets (p = 0.01). Piglet-to-sow nosing was unrelated to the piglet’s sex or teat order. Sow-to-piglet nosing occurred on average 3.6 ± 0.53 times per 30 min, and this was unrelated to litter size. Primiparous sows nosed their piglets more in the second week after farrowing. Litters in which piglet-to-sow nosing occurred more showed less variation in the expression of this behaviour across the weeks. Social nosing between sow and piglets deserves further research to understand the positive implications of this behaviour for sow and piglet welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: sow; piglet; behaviour; mother–offspring; nosing; free-farrowing; positive welfare; contact; maternal care; recognition sow; piglet; behaviour; mother–offspring; nosing; free-farrowing; positive welfare; contact; maternal care; recognition
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MDPI and ACS Style

Portele, K.; Scheck, K.; Siegmann, S.; Feitsch, R.; Maschat, K.; Rault, J.-L.; Camerlink, I. Sow-Piglet Nose Contacts in Free-Farrowing Pens. Animals 2019, 9, 513.

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