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Piglet Behaviour as a Measure of Vitality and its Influence on Piglet Survival and Growth during Lactation

15 May 2013

Spanish scientists have developed a measure - based on behaviour on day of birth - to assess piglet vitality for both scientific and commercial purposes.

In Journal of Animal Science, R. Muns and colleagues at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain report a study that aimed to develop a vitality scoring method, based on piglet behaviour and relate it to piglet growth and survival.

From 21 sows (Sus scrofa), 287 piglets were used. After farrowing (day 0), piglets were weighed and tested for four behavioral parameters in a circular enclosure (55cm in diameter): movement capacity (M), udder stimulation (U), number of completed circles around the enclosure (NCC) and screaming (Sc).

Piglets were weighed again on days 1, 2, 3 and 17. Piglet rectal temperature (RT) was recorded on days 0, 1, 2 and 3. Farrowing information of the sow was also recorded.

Multiple regression analyses for survival and bodyweight gain at weaning as dependent variables were performed.

Piglet bodyweight gain at weaning was influenced by bodyweight at birth (P<0.001), sow parity (P=0.024), total number of piglets born alive per sow (P<0.001), and sum of U and NCC parameters (UN; P=0.023).

Piglet survival during lactation was influenced by bodyweight at birth (P=0.015), UNCC parameter (P=0.026), and RT on day 3 (P=0.085).

Muns and colleagues conclude that the sum of U and NCC parameters, in combination with bodyweight at birth and information of the sow, might be useful to predict piglet growth survival during lactation, thus becoming a useful tool to improve piglet management during the first days of lactation.

They added that the UNCC parameter seems to be an easy and useful way to assess piglet vitality for both scientific and commercial purposes.


Muns R., E.G. Manzanilla, C.Sol, X. Manteca and J. Gasa. 2013. Piglet behavior as a measure of vitality and its influence on piglet survival and growth during lactation. J Anim. Sci. 91(4):1838-1843. doi: 10.2527/jas.2012-5501

Further Reading

You can view the full report (fee payable) by clicking here.

May 2013

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