Environmental Enrichment Improves Behavioral and Physiological Responses in Pigs

CANADA - A scientist with the University of Saskatchewan says the provision of environmental enrichment has the potential to improve both the health and productivity of the pig, writes Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 12 December 2016
clock icon 3 minute read

Canada's revised Pig Code of Practice requires producers to start to consider the provision of environmental enrichment.

Dr Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor in Swine Behavior and Welfare with the University of Saskatchewan, says enrichment is regarded as anything to enhance the environment of the pig which should enhance its behavioral or physiological responses.

Dr Yolande Seddon-University of Saskatchewan:

The code lays out that it is acceptable to have social enrichment, so contact with other pigs, to have a nutritional enrichment so be it different presentation of food, different types of food, to have tactile so it could be addition of brushes in the pen, to have additional sensory, so it could be music and also occupational enrichment which is really what we regard as something that the pig might manipulate or root.

We ultimately know from science, that the pig is a social animal, wants the company of other pigs but we need to give it an occupational enrichment because they are highly motivated to explore and manipulate and forage with their mouths.

The benefits are that, if we pay attention to this, we know we can improve the welfare of the pig through effective enrichment because we have lots of scientific evidence to say that we reduce problematic behaviors in the animals.

You can create an animal that has a lessened fear response, less response to novelty.
We can create a less stressed animal, an animal that is better able to cope with challenge, that is positive.

If it is simply the case of doing a simple yet effective targeted enrichment, that is something that we can certainly accommodate.

Dr Seddon suggests the provision of enrichment for pigs is also supportive of a social license to operate because we know that raising animals in a featureless environment isn't perceived well by the public.

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