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Suckling behaviour of piglets in relation to accessibility to the sow and the presence of foreign litters

By L. J. Pedersen, M. Studnitz, K. H. Jensen, A. M. Giersing

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Abstract

35 sows were distributed to 1 of 3 housing treatments. In treatment GS (group sows-separate piglets), 12 sows were in groups of 4 in a 'get-away system' where the sows could leave the piglets at their own will and where the litters were not able to compete for milk at foreign sows' udders. In treatment GG (group sows-group piglets), 12 sows were housed as GS sows but where the litters could compete for milk from foreign sows. In treatment IL (individual-loose sows), 11 sows were housed individually with their litter in large pens. Observations of nursing frequency, duration of time spent in the farrowing pen and number of sows weaning their litter were made of all sows using 24-h video recordings on days 8, 10, 14 and 21. Observation of teat fidelity, cross suckling, fights during milk letdown and number of piglets missing more than 20% of the nursings were made of the individual piglets using 12-h video recordings on days 8, 14 and 21. There was a significantly faster decrease over time in nursing frequency and in duration of time spent in the farrowing pen for GG sows compared with GS and IL sows. The number of sows that had weaned their litter before day 21 tended to be higher for GG sows (9 sows) compared with GS sows (1 sow). The decrease over time in teat fidelity was significantly greater and the increase over time in fights and number of piglets missing more than 20% of the nursings were significantly higher for litters of GG sows compared with litters of IL and GS sows. There were no statistical differences between GS sows and IL sows in any measured variables. It is concluded that the presence of other litters but not the accessibility to the sows severely increases competition at the udder and reduces the milk intake of the piglets. The increased competition during milk letdown seemed to reduce the sows motivation to nurse and thereby accelerated the process of weaning.

Date 1998
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 58
Issue 3/4
Pages 267-279
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address National Institute of Animal Science, Research Centre Foulum, Dept. of Health and Welfare, P.O. Box 39, 8830 Tjele, Denmark.
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal housing
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Animal nutrition
  5. Groups
  6. Housing
  7. Litters
  8. Mammals
  9. Maternal behavior
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. suckling
  12. Swine
  13. weaning
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  1. peer-reviewed