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Strategic use of straw increases nest building in loose housed farrowing sows

By R. Westin, J. Hultgren, B. Algers

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In spite of domestication, sows are still genetically programmed to perform nesting behaviour close to farrowing. In order to facilitate nest building, a method for a strategic use of large quantities of straw has been developed by Swedish piglet producing farmers. The objectives of the present study were to quantify the effect of strategic use of 15-20 kg of chopped straw given once 2 days prior to expected date of farrowing, compared to small daily amounts (0.5-1 kg) and 2 kg close to farrowing (controls), on the nest building behaviour and the duration of farrowing. The behaviour from 18 h pre-partum until 1 h after birth of first piglet and the duration of farrowing was continuously observed in 138 video recordings from 4 commercial farms. On each farm, 20-34 sows (parity ≥2) were studied during one or two consecutive lactations. Compared to controls, strategic use of straw triggered the sows to start nest building earlier and increased the total time spent nest building pre-partum by 19% ( p=0.039). Sows given large amounts of straw also performed less nesting behaviours during the first hour after birth of the first piglet. This shows that nest building is affected not only by the presence of straw, but also by the quantity of straw provided, and that 2 kg of chopped straw seems to be too little to make the sow terminate nest building well in advance of farrowing. There was no significant effect of treatment on the duration of farrowing but a strong negative association was found between time spent nest building pre-partum and the duration of farrowing regardless of treatment. The model predicted a 1-h increase in total nest building time pre-partum to be associated with a 12% (95% CI=4-19%) shorter duration of farrowing ( p=0.004).

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 166
Pages 63-70
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.02.010
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 234, SE-532 23 Skara,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animals
  3. Birth
  4. Commerce
  5. Domestic animals
  6. Domestication
  7. Effect
  8. Farms
  9. Farrowing
  10. Fetus
  11. Livestock
  12. Mammals
  13. Maternal behavior
  14. Methodologies
  15. nesting
  16. objectives
  17. peer-reviewed
  18. Pigs
  19. sows
  20. Straw
  21. Suiformes
  22. Techniques
  23. ungulates
  24. vertebrates
  25. video recordings
  1. peer-reviewed