Socialising piglets in lactation positively affects their post-weaning behaviour

T Morgan, J Pluske, D Miller, T Collins, AL Barnes, F Wemelsfelder, PA Fleming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although commercial farrowing sheds keep individual litters separated, previous studies have suggested that housing systems that allow socialisation of piglets pre-weaning canreduce aggression after weaning. This study tested whether pigs socialised with non-litter mates pre-weaning would show less aggression during mixing at weaning (when piglets are taken from their sows and mixed in group housing), and whether socialisation influenced the time budgets or behavioural expression of piglets at weaning. In total, 353 piglets were followed from birth through to one week after weaning. Piglets from 24 sows were allowed to socialise in groups of four litters (‘socialised’ treatment group) from 10 d of age; litters from nine sows were followed as controls. Socialised piglets were monitored to determine the prevalence of cross-suckling. Body weight was recorded at birth, prior to weaning and one week after weaning. Continuous video footage was collected for 1.5 days after weaning for behavioural analyses. There was no difference in the body weight of socialised pigs compared to control pigs at weaning or one week after weaning. Quantitative scoring of behaviour revealed no significant difference in aggression displayed between treatment groups or between the sexes; however, compared with overall averages, a greater proportion of socialised males spent time lying (57% of time compared with an average of 43%for the other sex-treatment groups, P < 0.001; but less eating/drinking 4% cf. average 8%,P < 0.001), and a greater proportion of socialised females were investigating (17% cf. aver-age 12%, P < 0.001 with less lying 40% cf. 48%, P < 0.001). Qualitative behavioural assessment(QBA) was used to assess the body language of pigs during an active period (the middle of the day after weaning). Observers reached consensus in regard to their assessments ofpig behavioural expression (P < 0.001). Two main dimensions of behavioural expression were identified, which accounted for 41% and 19% of the correlation between pigs. There were significant socialisation treatment effect (P = 0.002 and P = 0.007) on both dimensions,with socialised pigs more likely to be described as ‘sleepy’/‘tired’ or ‘content’/‘relaxed’ thancontrol pigs (described as more ‘active’/‘curious’ or ‘aggressive’/‘dominant’). Because socialising piglets had no effect on body weight pre-weaning, and there was a low occurrence of cross-suckling (2.9 ± 6.5% of piglets recorded suckling), socialisation was not disadvantageous. On the contrary, the behavioural difference at weaning suggests socialising piglets may be beneficial from a welfare perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23 - 33
Number of pages11
JournalApplied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume158
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 13 Jun 2014

Fingerprint

piglets
weaning
lactation
swine
suckling
litters (young animals)
sows
aggression
body weight
nonverbal communication
group housing
gender
farrowing
drinking
ingestion

Keywords

  • Behavioural expression
  • Cross-suckling
  • Free choice profiling
  • Piglet
  • Pre-weaning socialisation
  • Qualitative behavioural assessment
  • Weaning

Cite this

Morgan, T ; Pluske, J ; Miller, D ; Collins, T ; Barnes, AL ; Wemelsfelder, F ; Fleming, PA. / Socialising piglets in lactation positively affects their post-weaning behaviour. In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2014 ; Vol. 158. pp. 23 - 33.
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Socialising piglets in lactation positively affects their post-weaning behaviour. / Morgan, T; Pluske, J; Miller, D; Collins, T; Barnes, AL; Wemelsfelder, F; Fleming, PA.

In: Applied Animal Behaviour Science, Vol. 158, 13.06.2014, p. 23 - 33.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

TY - JOUR

T1 - Socialising piglets in lactation positively affects their post-weaning behaviour

AU - Morgan, T

AU - Pluske, J

AU - Miller, D

AU - Collins, T

AU - Barnes, AL

AU - Wemelsfelder, F

AU - Fleming, PA

PY - 2014/6/13

Y1 - 2014/6/13

N2 - Although commercial farrowing sheds keep individual litters separated, previous studies have suggested that housing systems that allow socialisation of piglets pre-weaning canreduce aggression after weaning. This study tested whether pigs socialised with non-litter mates pre-weaning would show less aggression during mixing at weaning (when piglets are taken from their sows and mixed in group housing), and whether socialisation influenced the time budgets or behavioural expression of piglets at weaning. In total, 353 piglets were followed from birth through to one week after weaning. Piglets from 24 sows were allowed to socialise in groups of four litters (‘socialised’ treatment group) from 10 d of age; litters from nine sows were followed as controls. Socialised piglets were monitored to determine the prevalence of cross-suckling. Body weight was recorded at birth, prior to weaning and one week after weaning. Continuous video footage was collected for 1.5 days after weaning for behavioural analyses. There was no difference in the body weight of socialised pigs compared to control pigs at weaning or one week after weaning. Quantitative scoring of behaviour revealed no significant difference in aggression displayed between treatment groups or between the sexes; however, compared with overall averages, a greater proportion of socialised males spent time lying (57% of time compared with an average of 43%for the other sex-treatment groups, P < 0.001; but less eating/drinking 4% cf. average 8%,P < 0.001), and a greater proportion of socialised females were investigating (17% cf. aver-age 12%, P < 0.001 with less lying 40% cf. 48%, P < 0.001). Qualitative behavioural assessment(QBA) was used to assess the body language of pigs during an active period (the middle of the day after weaning). Observers reached consensus in regard to their assessments ofpig behavioural expression (P < 0.001). Two main dimensions of behavioural expression were identified, which accounted for 41% and 19% of the correlation between pigs. There were significant socialisation treatment effect (P = 0.002 and P = 0.007) on both dimensions,with socialised pigs more likely to be described as ‘sleepy’/‘tired’ or ‘content’/‘relaxed’ thancontrol pigs (described as more ‘active’/‘curious’ or ‘aggressive’/‘dominant’). Because socialising piglets had no effect on body weight pre-weaning, and there was a low occurrence of cross-suckling (2.9 ± 6.5% of piglets recorded suckling), socialisation was not disadvantageous. On the contrary, the behavioural difference at weaning suggests socialising piglets may be beneficial from a welfare perspective.

AB - Although commercial farrowing sheds keep individual litters separated, previous studies have suggested that housing systems that allow socialisation of piglets pre-weaning canreduce aggression after weaning. This study tested whether pigs socialised with non-litter mates pre-weaning would show less aggression during mixing at weaning (when piglets are taken from their sows and mixed in group housing), and whether socialisation influenced the time budgets or behavioural expression of piglets at weaning. In total, 353 piglets were followed from birth through to one week after weaning. Piglets from 24 sows were allowed to socialise in groups of four litters (‘socialised’ treatment group) from 10 d of age; litters from nine sows were followed as controls. Socialised piglets were monitored to determine the prevalence of cross-suckling. Body weight was recorded at birth, prior to weaning and one week after weaning. Continuous video footage was collected for 1.5 days after weaning for behavioural analyses. There was no difference in the body weight of socialised pigs compared to control pigs at weaning or one week after weaning. Quantitative scoring of behaviour revealed no significant difference in aggression displayed between treatment groups or between the sexes; however, compared with overall averages, a greater proportion of socialised males spent time lying (57% of time compared with an average of 43%for the other sex-treatment groups, P < 0.001; but less eating/drinking 4% cf. average 8%,P < 0.001), and a greater proportion of socialised females were investigating (17% cf. aver-age 12%, P < 0.001 with less lying 40% cf. 48%, P < 0.001). Qualitative behavioural assessment(QBA) was used to assess the body language of pigs during an active period (the middle of the day after weaning). Observers reached consensus in regard to their assessments ofpig behavioural expression (P < 0.001). Two main dimensions of behavioural expression were identified, which accounted for 41% and 19% of the correlation between pigs. There were significant socialisation treatment effect (P = 0.002 and P = 0.007) on both dimensions,with socialised pigs more likely to be described as ‘sleepy’/‘tired’ or ‘content’/‘relaxed’ thancontrol pigs (described as more ‘active’/‘curious’ or ‘aggressive’/‘dominant’). Because socialising piglets had no effect on body weight pre-weaning, and there was a low occurrence of cross-suckling (2.9 ± 6.5% of piglets recorded suckling), socialisation was not disadvantageous. On the contrary, the behavioural difference at weaning suggests socialising piglets may be beneficial from a welfare perspective.

KW - Behavioural expression

KW - Cross-suckling

KW - Free choice profiling

KW - Piglet

KW - Pre-weaning socialisation

KW - Qualitative behavioural assessment

KW - Weaning

U2 - 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.06.001

DO - 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.06.001

M3 - Article

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SP - 23

EP - 33

JO - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

JF - Applied Animal Behaviour Science

SN - 0168-1591

ER -