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Is it Good to Socialise Piglets?

22 August 2014

US - By socialising unfamiliar piglets before weaning, stress due to mixing could at least be distanced in time from the other burdens of weaning, thereby improving performance.

A study by E.F Hessel, K. Reniners and H.F.A Van den Weghe evaluated how socialising piglets before weaning affects behaviour of lactating sows and the pre- and postweaning behaviour and performance of piglets.

Two farrowing rooms, each with six pens, and one nursery with four pens were used. In total, data were obtained from 24 sows and their litters. In each farrowing room, the solid barriers between three farrowing pens were removed on day 12 after farrowing, and the sows remained confined in their crates (experimental group).

In the other three farrowing pens of each farrowing room, sows and their litters were kept under conventional conditions until weaning (control group). All piglets were weaned 28 days after birth.

After weaning, piglets from each group remained together in one pen of the nursery. The behaviour of sows (lying, standing, sitting, nursing) and piglets (lying, active, suckling) in the farrowing rooms was observed for 24 hours before and for 48 hours after removal of the barriers between the pens.

In addition, behaviour (active, lying, feeding, agonistic behaviour) of piglets was observed in the nursery during the initial 48-hour period after weaning. Each piglet was weighed on day five, 12, and 28 after birth and thereafter weekly until the fifth week of rearing.

In the farrowing room, mixing of litters did not influence behaviour of piglets and sows. Preweaning weight gain of the piglets did not differ (P = 0.60) between the treatments. In the initial 48 hours after weaning, less agonistic behaviour (P < 0.001) was observed in piglets belonging to the experimental group.

During five weeks of rearing, piglets in the experimental group gained more weight compared with the control group (P = 0.05). The advantage shown by the experimental group became especially conspicuous in the first week after weaning (P = 0.05). By socialising unfamiliar piglets before weaning, stress due to mixing could at least be distanced in time from the other burdens of weaning, thereby improving performance.

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