Sawdust is Suitable Bedding Material for Farrowing Sows

by 5m Editor
29 March 2011, at 12:00am

Sawdust is a suitable nesting material for farrowing sows when straw is not available, according to new research published from Prague University.

Nest-building is an important part of maternal behaviour in domestic pigs, according to Helena Chaloupková and colleagues at the Institute of Animal Science at Prague University in the Czech Republic in their paper published recently in Journal of Animal Science.

The researchers explain that the aim of their study was to assess the effect of nesting material – sawdust versus straw – on sow behaviour 24 hours before and after birth of the first piglet (BFP) and piglet production.

Sows, housed in farrowing crates, were randomly divided into two treatments: sawdust (n=12) and straw (n=13). Sawdust and straw were provided during the pre- and parturient period; after parturition, straw was given to both experimental groups.

The pre-partum nesting period (the time interval between the first and last nest-building records, including all other activity and resting before BFP), the nesting records (number of nesting records), nesting duration (duration of all nesting records), the start and termination of nesting, and the frequency of pre-partum postural changes were collected 24 hours before BFP.

After BFP, number of nesting records and time to first sucking of the litter were collected. Frequency of postural changes and duration of udder access were collected 24 h after BFP during three time periods (during parturition, from the end of parturition to 12 hours after BFP, and 12 to 24 hours after BFP) and the frequency of nursing during two time periods (from the end of parturition to 12 hours after BFP, and 12 to 24 hours after BFP). Piglet BW gain and mortality were estimated 24 hours after BFP. Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED and the probability of the piglet mortality using PROC GENMOD in SAS.

Nesting material did not affect (P>0.10) most of sow pre-partum nesting behaviour and had no effect (P>0.10) on the pre-partum frequency of postural changes.

Sows from the sawdust treatment had a longer nesting period (P<0.05), and nest-building tended to start sooner (P<0.10) than in the straw treatment.

Nesting material had only a small effect on later maternal behaviour. Sows from the straw treatment tended to have more nesting records after BFP (P<0.10).

The frequency of postural changes was affected by the interaction (P<0.01) between treatments and time period: sow from the straw treatment had more postural changes during parturition compared with other time periods and sawdust treatment.

No effect (P>0.10) of the nesting material on piglet bodyweight gain and mortality was found.

The results suggest that sawdust compared with straw as nesting material provided to sows before and through parturition does not negatively affect maternal behaviour during the 24 hours before and after parturition or piglet production. Therefore, sawdust can be recommended as a suitable nesting material for farrowing sows when straw is not available.


Chaloupková, H., G. Illmann, K. Neuhauserová, M. Simecková and P. Kratinová. 2011. The effect of nesting material on the nest-building and maternal behavior of domestic sows and piglet production. J. Anim Sci. 2011. 89:531-537. doi:10.2527/jas.2010-2854

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March 2011
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