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A note on the relationship between the behavioural response of lactating sows to humans and the survival of their piglets

By P. H. Hemsworth, V. Pedersen, M. Cox, G. M. Cronin, G. J. Coleman

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Abstract

The objective of this study was to examine the relationships, based on unit averages, between the behavioural responses of lactating sows to humans and the performance of sows in 25 farrowing units at a large commercial farm. The behavioural responses of 25 sows in each farrowing unit were observed at 2-4 and 16-18 days of lactation and a correlation analysis, using unit averages, was used to examine the behaviour-productivity relationships. Moderate and significant between-unit correlations were found between the behavioural response of lactating sows at days 16-18 to an approaching experimenter and the percentage of stillborn piglets. Units in which test sows were quicker to withdraw in the presence of the experimenter had a higher stillbirth rate than those units in which a reduced withdrawal response was displayed. The withdrawal response of sows in the close presence of the experimenter accounted for about 18% of the variance in percentage of stillborn piglets. It is concluded that high levels of fear of humans by sows may affect the survival of their piglets. The possible mechanisms whereby fear may affect piglet survival are considered.

Date 1999
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 65
Issue 1
Pages 43-52
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/S0168-1591(99)00047-7
Language English
Author Address Animal Welfare Centre, University of Melbourne and Agriculture Victoria, Victorian Institute of Animal Science, Werribee, Victoria, 3030, Australia.
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  5. Farrowing
  6. Fear
  7. Fetus
  8. Lactation
  9. Mammals
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. Pigs
  12. Primates
  13. responses
  14. sows
  15. survival
  16. Swine
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  1. peer-reviewed