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Early Socialisation Reduces Piglet Stress at Weaning

30 November 2015
Manitoba Pork Council

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CANADA - A research scientist with the Prairie Swine Centre says, piglets that are given an early opportunity to socialize, will be better prepared to deal with the stresses they face at weaning, writes Bruce Cochrane.

Weaning is recognized as a particularly difficult stage in production.

This is because the piglets have been in a very static environment to that point and we're compounding multiple stresses in one event including moving them to a different environment and a different social group at a time when we expect them to start eating feed and drinking from a nipple drinker.

Dr Jennifer Brown, a research scientist ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, notes, in the wild, the sow would introduce those piglets to the main herd at about 10 to 12 days of age.

Dr Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre:

There's a window we recognize for socialization and pigs being precocial, that happens in that period of 2 weeks to 3 weeks.

If we keep them isolated in a farrowing crate, then they don't have that opportunity to develop those social skills so what some experiments have done is open a small porthole, a little piglet passageway between two farrowing crates.

You open that at approximately 12 days of age, between 10 and 14 days, and the two litters will comingle.

Certainly the sows don't seem to mind that the neighboring piglets are coming in and the piglets get to socialize with these other pigs that are not part of their letter.

It's important that it happen at that early stage because, when you wean, they've gained that social experience and there's much less aggression and then they're more quickly focusing on feeding and adjusting to the weaning environment.

Dr Brown says if we can, within the farrowing crate environment, introduce the piglets to some of the changes they'll face later at weaning, they'll be much better able to cope with the transition of weaning.

ThePigSite News Desk

Top image via Shutterstock

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