Researchers Identify Strategies for Reducing Aggression Among Group Housed Sows

CANADA - A researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre says a range of strategies have been shown effective for reducing aggression among group housed sows, according to Bruce Cochrane.
calendar icon 21 September 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

In response to Canadian Pig Code of Practice changes which will require gestating sows to be housed in groups, researchers working on behalf of Swine Innovation Pork have been exploring the social dynamics of group housed sows.

Dr Jennifer Brown, a Research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, says the biggest challenge has been addressing aggression.

Dr Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre

Certainly in the wild we don't see groups of pigs in general mixing at all.

They are in very discrete groups and they remain quite isolated throughout their life and don't join with other groups of pigs so we're asking them, in our pens and barns, to work out their differences when they would prefer just to separate and be in separate pens.

Factors related to their levels of aggression would be familiarity, so sow that are familiar with other animals from previous gestations are going to be less aggressive towards one another because they are capable of recognizing each other.

There's certainly genetic selection that can be to choose animals that are going to be more passive and less aggressive when mixed in a group.

Then our rearing practices, we can certainly work on ways of encouraging earlier socialization.

Some researchers have mixed pigs allowing litters to co-mingle at as early as 12 days which is more of a natural age for pigs in the wild to be socialized with other members of the group.

Researchers have definitely show that early mixing reduces aggression later on.

Then, if you have gilts that you're developing, mixing them multiple times, they will get used to developing social skills for adapting to changes in the group.

Dr Brown says those factors, as well as mixing practices can be used to reduce aggression.
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