A sow-controlled housing system and its affects on production and welfare problems resulting from the abrupt separation of piglets from sows at weaning was investigated. 44 sows and litters were housed during lactation in either a 'confined' pen where the sow and litter were kept together, or a 'get-away' pen where the sow could leave the litter by stepping over a barrier. Sows in get-away pens varied greatly in the amount of time they spent away from their piglets and were classified as 'Early Leavers' if they spent more than 60% of their time away by the third week of lactation or 'Late Leavers' if they did not. Body weight changes and food consumption of piglets were measured for 2 weeks after separation from the sow at 5 weeks post-partum. As a possible indicator of stress at weaning, sows and litters were tested for spontaneous behaviour and response to the playback of calls upon separation. Overall, piglets from get-away pens gained 27% more weight and consumed 31% more food after weaning than piglets from confined pens. Piglets from Early Leaver sows showed a non-significant tendency to gain more weight and consume more solid food than piglets from Late Leaver sows. Pre-separation accommodation and sow classification (Early versus Late Leavers) had a limited effect on post-separation piglet behaviour. Piglets from get-away pens were more active and bit pen-mates more after separation than piglets from confined pens. It is concluded that sow-controlled housing improved piglet food consumption and weight gain after weaning, but there was only slight evidence of an effect on behavioural indicators of stress for either the piglets or sows.
|Publication Title||Applied Animal Behaviour Science|
|Author Address||Department of Biology, McGill University, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Montreal, Quebec, H3A 1B1, Canada.|
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