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Socialising piglets in lactation positively affects their post-weaning behaviour

By Talia Morgan, John Pluske, David Miller, Teresa Collins, Anne L. Barnes, Françoise Wemelsfelder, Patricia A. Fleming

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Although commercial farrowing sheds keep individual litters separated, previous studies have suggested that housing systems that allow socialisation of piglets pre-weaning can reduce aggression after weaning. This study tested whether pigs socialised with non-litter mates pre-weaning would show less aggression during mixing at weaning (when piglets are taken from their sows and mixed in group housing), and whether socialisation influenced the time budgets or behavioural expression of piglets at weaning. In total, 353 piglets were followed from birth through to one week after weaning. Piglets from 24 sows were allowed to socialise in groups of four litters (‘socialised’ treatment group) from 10d of age; litters from nine sows were followed as controls. Socialised piglets were monitored to determine the prevalence of cross-suckling. Body weight was recorded at birth, prior to weaning and one week after weaning. Continuous video footage was collected for 1.5 days after weaning for behavioural analyses. There was no difference in the body weight of socialised pigs compared to control pigs at weaning or one week after weaning. Quantitative scoring of behaviour revealed no significant difference in aggression displayed between treatment groups or between the sexes; however, compared with overall averages, a greater proportion of socialised males spent time lying (57% of time compared with an average of 43% for the other sex-treatment groups, P

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 158
Pages 23-33
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.06.001
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. behavioral tests
  2. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  3. Socialization
  4. suckling
  5. weaning