Early socialisation as a strategy to increase piglets' social skills in intensive farming conditions

LC Salazar, H-L Ko, C-H Yang, L Llonch, X Manteca, I Camerlink, P Llonch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Socialisation is a process in which animals interact with unfamiliar conspecifics, that allows them to develop their social abilities. Socialisation has been proposed as a method in pig husbandry to increase piglets’ social skills and reduce conspecific aggression, which is a major welfare issue in pig husbandry. Socialisation, i.e. co-mingling, has been studied in research settings, with positive outcomes, but research under commercial conditions is lacking. The aim of this study was to obtain behavioural, stress coping and performance parameters of piglets socialised at different ages under intensive commercial conditions. Piglets were either not socialised (CON; n = 12 litters) or socialised at 7 d of age (M7; n = 20 litters) or 14 d of age (M14; n = 20 litters) by removing the separating barrier between two adjacent pens. At weaning (day 25), all piglets were regrouped with unfamiliar piglets from the same treatment. Behavioural observations (instantaneous scan sampling) took place after socialisation at day 7 and day 14, and at day 21. Skin lesions were counted pre- and post-mixing, including weaning. At the same time saliva was sampled to measure cortisol concentration. Weight was recorded weekly. Social behaviour did not differ between treatments at day 7 and 21, but at day 14 piglets from the socialised group (M7 and M14) showed a three-fold increase in play behaviour compared to the control group (CON). M7 and M14 did not differ in the amount of social behaviour but socialisation treatments showed more aggression than CON at day 14. During lactation, skin lesions increased after socialisation in M7 piglets whereas they did not in the M14 group. After weaning, skin lesions increased in the CON group but did not in the M7 and M14. Socialised piglets were lighter than the CON group during lactation, but treatments did not differ in their average daily gain (ADG) as socialised piglets had a smaller growth reduction after weaning. Salivary cortisol did not differ between treatments. The present study shows a positive effect of socialisation on social behaviour during lactation with only short lived aggression just after mixing and no impact for piglet’s growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25 - 31
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume206
Early online date19 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 19 Jun 2018

Fingerprint

intensive farming
piglets
weaning
skin lesions
social behavior
litters (young animals)
aggression
lactation
cortisol
play activities
swine
saliva
average daily gain
growth retardation

Keywords

  • Behaviour
  • Co-mingling
  • Cortisol
  • Pig
  • Productivity
  • Skin lesions

Cite this

Salazar, LC ; Ko, H-L ; Yang, C-H ; Llonch, L ; Manteca, X ; Camerlink, I ; Llonch, P. / Early socialisation as a strategy to increase piglets' social skills in intensive farming conditions. In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2018 ; Vol. 206. pp. 25 - 31.
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Early socialisation as a strategy to increase piglets' social skills in intensive farming conditions. / Salazar, LC; Ko, H-L; Yang, C-H; Llonch, L; Manteca, X; Camerlink, I; Llonch, P.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 206, 19.06.2018, p. 25 - 31.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Early socialisation as a strategy to increase piglets' social skills in intensive farming conditions

AU - Salazar, LC

AU - Ko, H-L

AU - Yang, C-H

AU - Llonch, L

AU - Manteca, X

AU - Camerlink, I

AU - Llonch, P

PY - 2018/6/19

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AB - Socialisation is a process in which animals interact with unfamiliar conspecifics, that allows them to develop their social abilities. Socialisation has been proposed as a method in pig husbandry to increase piglets’ social skills and reduce conspecific aggression, which is a major welfare issue in pig husbandry. Socialisation, i.e. co-mingling, has been studied in research settings, with positive outcomes, but research under commercial conditions is lacking. The aim of this study was to obtain behavioural, stress coping and performance parameters of piglets socialised at different ages under intensive commercial conditions. Piglets were either not socialised (CON; n = 12 litters) or socialised at 7 d of age (M7; n = 20 litters) or 14 d of age (M14; n = 20 litters) by removing the separating barrier between two adjacent pens. At weaning (day 25), all piglets were regrouped with unfamiliar piglets from the same treatment. Behavioural observations (instantaneous scan sampling) took place after socialisation at day 7 and day 14, and at day 21. Skin lesions were counted pre- and post-mixing, including weaning. At the same time saliva was sampled to measure cortisol concentration. Weight was recorded weekly. Social behaviour did not differ between treatments at day 7 and 21, but at day 14 piglets from the socialised group (M7 and M14) showed a three-fold increase in play behaviour compared to the control group (CON). M7 and M14 did not differ in the amount of social behaviour but socialisation treatments showed more aggression than CON at day 14. During lactation, skin lesions increased after socialisation in M7 piglets whereas they did not in the M14 group. After weaning, skin lesions increased in the CON group but did not in the M7 and M14. Socialised piglets were lighter than the CON group during lactation, but treatments did not differ in their average daily gain (ADG) as socialised piglets had a smaller growth reduction after weaning. Salivary cortisol did not differ between treatments. The present study shows a positive effect of socialisation on social behaviour during lactation with only short lived aggression just after mixing and no impact for piglet’s growth.

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KW - Co-mingling

KW - Cortisol

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KW - Productivity

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