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Peat as environmental enrichment for piglets: The effect on behaviour, skin lesions and production results

By Valerie Vanheukelom, Bert Driessen, Daniël Maenhout, Rony Geers

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine whether the provision of small amounts of peat to piglets would influence behaviour and production. At approximately 5 days of age, nine litters received a tray of peat as enrichment, while nine others did not. All piglets had access to solid feed, which was used to compare substrate-directed behaviour. Piglets were weaned at week 4, and half of the pens in the nursery again received peat. The other half did not. This resulted in the following experimental design: peat/peat (PP), peat/no peat (PN), no peat/peat (NP) and no peat/no peat (NN). Each pen was observed for 4×1min in the morning and also in the afternoon. During every minute the behaviour of each piglet was recorded continuously. The main behavioural categories were: foraging, exploration, playing, locomotion, resting, sleeping, biting and fighting. At 9 weeks of age the pigs were moved to the fattening unit, where no peat was provided. However, observations continued until the pigs reached slaughter age, i.e. until about week 24. Production results (weight, weight gain) and skin lesions were recorded from start to end. Piglets with access to peat performed foraging behaviour significantly more often than piglets without peat (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 134
Issue 1
Pages 42-47
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2011.06.010
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. Environment
  3. performance
  4. Pigs