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Maternal pheromone application before and after weaning: effects on pig behavior and performance

by 5m Editor
3 July 2004, at 12:00am

By N. Krebs, and J. J. McGlone, Pork Industry Institute, Texas Tech University - Weaning is a stressful event for piglets. A synthetic maternal pheromone was studied to determine its effects on behavior and performance of groups of weaned piglets when applied either before and(or) after weaning.

Piglets Suckling Ninety-six 4-wk-old piglets from 30 litters were randomly assigned to 4 treatments arranged factorially with pheromone (PH) treatment (1 mL per pig Suilence; Ceva Sante Animale) or control (CO) in the pre-weaning farrowing environment and PH treatment (1 mL) or CO in the nursery.

Each block contained 32 pigs (1 castrated male and 1 female from 4 litters per treatment). Observers recorded live pig behavior pre-weaning using a 10-min scan sample for 40 min before treatment and 80-min after treatment.

Prior to weaning, Suilence was applied on sows’ teats (or not), to test the hypothesis that the maternal pheromone may increase teat-contact behavior and post weaning feeding behavior. Pigs were weaned into pens that contained either nothing or the maternal pheromone while being video taped in time lapse for 48 h.

Pigs were weighed at weaning and each week for 4 wk. Feed disappearance was recorded and feed efficiency was calculated. The maternal pheromone applied in farrowing environment decreased piglet-teat contact behavior (16.2 vs. 8.5 %, SE = 1.91, P = 0.047, for CO and PH, respectively).

The farrowing treatment by period effect was significant (P = 0.03) for post-weaning agonistic behavior; CO pigs had higher % time engaged in agonistic behavior than PH pigs during the first 8 h and 20 to 24 h after weaning.

Pigs given PH in the nursery environment had a higher (P = 0.02) % of observations standing close to the feeder than CO piglets. There were no significant differences among treatments in pig weaning weights, post-weaning gain or feed intake.

In conclusion, the application of PH on the sows’ teats before weaning did not increase piglet-teat contact but PH reduced post-weaning agonistic behaviors and increased piglet time spent near the feeder.

Source: Pork Industry Institute - Texas Tech University - June 2004