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Measuring chronic social tension in groups of growing pigs using inter-individual distances

By Simon P. Turner, Mintu Nath, Graham W. Horgan, Sandra A. Edwards

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Abstract

Chronic social stress in pigs compromises immune function, reduces ADG, increases activity and skin lesions and affects feeding behaviour but to different extents in individuals and contemporary groups housed in the same way. Assessing the animals’ perception of chronic social stress is difficult. A large inter-individual distance has been suggested to indicate acute stress immediately following regrouping. The current study hypothesised that large inter-individual distances between grower pigs in groups whose composition was stable for 6 weeks would also be predictive of the expression of other traits sensitive to chronic social stress. Group sizes (20 and 80) and feeder space allowances (32.5 and 42.5mm/pig) were studied in a 2×2 factorial design replicated four times to simulate commercially relevant social environments. Inter-individual distances were calculated for individual resting pigs and defined as the mean distance to the nearest resting neighbour (MNND) and mean distance to all other resting group members (MD). Relationships between MNND or MD and potential stress response variates were examined by appropriate linear or generalised linear mixed models. The mean growth rate was poorer in large groups and the mean number of skin lesions was greater in pens with a small feeding space (P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 146
Issue 1
Pages 26-36
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.03.012
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Tags
  1. Aggression
  2. Distance
  3. Pigs
  4. Stress