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A test of sows' willingness to nurse

By K. Thodberg, K. H. Jensen

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The aim of the study was to validate a test for willingness of sows to nurse to find a test situation in which maximum variation in the nursing motivation of sows was displayed. The factors considered were the interval since last successful nursing, level of hunger of the sow and activity of the piglets. Fifty-two sows were assigned to six treatments according to a 2x3 factorial design with two levels of hunger, receiving either a normal feed ration (HL1) or 1/3 (HL2) of their normal feed ration at the morning feeding and three intervals since last nursing (70, 100 or 130 min). During the nursing interval, the sow and piglets were isolated in the home environment, however, still in visual and auditive contact. The sows were reunited with their litters and given a small amount of feed and the latency until lateral recumbency was measured. In sows on HL1, the latency was significantly shorter when the nursing interval was 130 compared to 70 min ( chi 2=6.13, P=0.01). On the contrary, the interval since last nursing did not affect the latency to assume lateral recumbency in the sows on HL2, probably because the motivation to eat exceeded the motivation to nurse in these sows. After a nursing interval of 130 min, sows on HL1 were also significantly faster to assume nursing posture compared to HL2 sows ( chi 2=5.87, P<0.05). Finally, the latency to assume lateral recumbency was shorter when the piglets were more active ( chi 2=6.17, P=0.01). The results show that the sows' willingness to nurse their piglets could be measured in a test based on a conflict between feeding and nursing motivation, if the sows were not too hungry.

Date 2005
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 94
Issue 1/2
Pages 49-58
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Health and Welfare, Foulum, Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, P.O. Box 50, DK-8830 Tjele, Denmark.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Hunger
  4. Mammals
  5. Maternal behavior
  6. Nutrition
  7. peer-reviewed
  8. pig feeding
  9. suckling
  10. Swine
  1. peer-reviewed