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Does housing influence maternal behaviour in sows?

By Charlotte G. E. Grimberg-Henrici, Kathrin Büttner, Christian Meyer, Joachim Krieter

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Farrowing crates prevent sows during lactation from moving freely and interacting unrestrictedly with their piglets. The aim of this study was to compare sows during lactation in a group-housing system (GH; n=23) and sows in a conventional single-housing system (SH; n=24) with regard to their maternal behaviour. GH sows were only fixed in their pens three days ante partum until one day post partum. For the remaining amount of time they were able to choose between their home pen and a shared running area. Piglets were able to leave their pens on day five post partum. Data were collected in four batches with six sows in each housing system. All sows were observed in week 2 and week 4 of lactation in six successive tests concerning their maternal behaviour. The sows’ reaction to piglet distress calls, separation from and reunion with their piglets was tested both in their home pens and in a test arena for a maximum of five minutes. The test arena (3.9m×3.7m) provided a piglet nest in a corner. The sows were only able to hear and smell their piglets. In the piglet scream test in the home pen, GH sows were more responsive to piglet screaming than SH sows. GH sows showed more body movements towards their screaming piglets and aggressiveness towards the experimenter (p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 180
Pages 26-34
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. behavioral tests
  2. Group housing
  3. Maternal behavior
  4. sows