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Group housing with electronically controlled crates for lactating sows. Effect on farrowing, suckling and activity behavior of sows and piglets

By Anna-Lena Bohnenkamp, Christian Meyer, Karin Müller, Joachim Krieter

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Abstract

The aim of the present study was the analysis of behavioral parameters of sows and piglets in two different farrowing systems. Data of 132 crossbred-sows were collected. Conventional single housing with farrowing crates (SH) was compared to a group housing system (GH) with six single pens, electronically controlled gates (ear tag) and a shared running area. GH-sows were fixed in their crates from day 3 ante partum (a.p.) until day 1 post partum (p.p.). The piglets remained in the pens until lactation day 5 (flexible step) and were weaned on lactation day 26. The behavior of the sows and piglets was recorded by videotape. Under investigation were the parameters ‘farrowing duration between each piglet’, ‘the number and duration of sucklings’, ‘missing and foreign piglets during suckling (only GH)’, ‘the duration and frequency of the sows’ activities (lying, sitting, standing, walking)’ and ‘the number of GH-piglets in the running area (suckling, resting, walking)’. The farrowing duration was not different for the piglets in GH (11min) and SH (10min; p>0.05). Likewise, the suckling duration was equal with 17min/observation unit in GH and SH, respectively (p>0.05). The frequency of suckling did not vary significantly (GH: 3.9 vs. SH: 3.6/time period of three hours). However, the suckling behavior of the GH-piglets changed during nursing. Fewer than one GH-piglet was missing during milk flow, while this proportion rose during udder massages before and after milk flow (p0.05). Furthermore, suckling in the running area resulted in higher numbers of missing and foreign piglets (p0.05). The sows’ time in the GH-pens decreased from lactation day 5 (20.6h/d) until it reached a nearly constant level on lactation day 11 (11.6h/d; p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 145
Issue 1
Pages 37-43
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.01.015
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