CANADA - Research has shown the use of environmental enrichments can be highly effective in promoting calm in the swine barn, writes Bruce Cochrane.
Under Canada's revised Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, those who raise pigs are required to provide multiple forms of environmental enrichment.
Dr Yolande Seddon, a research scientist in ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, told those attending the centre's Manitoba Spring Producer meetings this week, placing novel items in the pen for the pigs to investigate can be extremely beneficial.
Dr Yolande Seddon-Prairie Swine Centre:
We know that we can promote calm in the group.
We want our pigs calm, not a lot of stress being felt on them, growing well.
You can get a lot of unrest in some groups, especially when we see outbreaks of tail biting so we can help to reduce the effects of that by providing enrichment, provide an outlet for motivated behaviours.
We also know that we can reduce the excitability of the pigs.
If the pigs have had a very consistent life, have not had much handling experience we know that through providing them with objects to investigate and manipulate we actually have a profound effect on their excitability levels and their ease of handling.
I haven't looked into, in particular the effect on meat quality but I would say logically if you can reduce the overall stress for the pigs there could be potential to improve meat quality.
Certainly there have been some studies to show improved growth rate, which we do link back to an improved calm and contentment within the group.
What I will say for that though, to get those sort of responses you really need to be on the ball in providing continuously novel enrichment for the pigs.
It is not a case of leaving a chain and a block of wood in the pen for the growing period and saying it's not having an effect.
You have to be changing that enrichment, you have to be stimulating the pigs in a positive manner.
For more Dr Seddon recommends reading the revised Pig Code of Practice or visiting the Prairie Swine Centre web site at prairieswine.com.
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