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Differing results for motivation tests and measures of resource use: The value of environmental enrichment to gestating sows housed in stalls

By Monica R. P. Elmore, Joseph P. Garner, Anna K. Johnson, Richard D. Kirkden, Emily G. Patterson-Kane, Brian T. Richert, Edmond A. Pajor

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Abstract

Sows are often housed in barren stalls during breeding and/or gestation. Environmental enrichment may improve sow welfare; however, the value of specific enrichments to sows is largely unknown. Our aim was to compare the motivation of gestating sows (32, n=8/treatment) housed in stalls (2.1m×0.6m), and fed at commercial levels, for access to the following enrichments: compost in a trough (2.3kg) or straw in a rack (0.5kg), in comparison to a positive (additional food, 0.9kg) and a negative (empty trough) control. Sows were trained to press an operant panel on an ascending series of fixed ratio (FR) schedules for one of the four resources, which were visible during testing. The schedule was increased by 50% each day following completion of FR 10 (FR 1, 10, 15, 23, 35, 53, 80, 120, 180, 270, 405, 608, and 912) and a maximum of one reward was allowed per day. The highest schedule completed (i.e., highest price paid) indicated motivational strength. Sows were given 1h each day to press the operant panel and a maximum of 23h resource access in the stall. Measures of resource use were also obtained. Sows showed a lower latency to press the operant panel (food: 11.2±7.1s; compost: 5.0±1.6s; trough: 245.6±216.6s) and higher operant responding (food: 462.9±91.9 presses; compost: 196.9±37.0 presses; trough: 59.9±12.0 presses), indicating higher motivation, for access to food and compost compared to an empty trough (all comparisons, P0.05). Behavior prior to testing (which may indicate anticipation) was not affected by treatment. Sows spent a higher percentage of time interacting with straw upon resource access (straw: 18.0±3.8%; food: 3.3±0.4%; compost: 5.8±1.1%; trough: 2.8±1.5%; all comparisons, P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 141
Issue 1
Pages 9-19
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2012.07.010
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Tags
  1. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  2. operant conditioning
  3. Pigs
  4. Straw
  5. welfare