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Cross-fostering alters the post-weaning pig behavioral stress response in a sex-specific manner

By Christopher J. Byrd, Jennifer M. Young, Dominique M. Sommer

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Abstract

The purpose of the current study was to evaluate whether early postnatal stress due to cross-fostering alters the behavioral response to stress in weaned pigs. We hypothesized that piglets who were cross-fostered (FOS) into another existing litter would exhibit heightened behavioral indicators of stress after weaning in response to three behavioral stress tests compared to their non-biological litter mates (NBL), and their non-fostered biological siblings (CON). Three FOS piglets from each CON litter (n = 11 litters) were randomly selected and moved to a foster litter (n = 11 litters) 12–24 h post-farrowing, where they were nursed along NBL piglets until weaning (approximately 18 d of age). At 7- and 14-d post-weaning, all piglets underwent a novel object test (NOT) in their home pens. At 21- and 28-d post-weaning, one male and one female piglet from each treatment (CON, FOS, NBL) underwent one of two behavioral tests: social isolation and dyadic contest in an isolated 1.22 × 1.22 m novel pen. All data were analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure in SAS. Non-biological littermate pigs exhibited a lower latency to interact with a novel object during NOT round 1 compared to CON pigs (P = 0.02), whereas FOS pigs were intermediate to but not different from either treatment (P > 0.05). A treatment by sex interaction was detected during NOT round 2 (P = 0.004), where FOS males exhibited a lower latency to interact with a novel object compared to CON pigs and FOS female pigs. Additionally, NBL females exhibited a lower latency to interaction with a novel object during NOT round 2 compared to CON, FOS female, and NBL male pigs. No treatment differences were detected during the social isolation test (P > 0.05). Treatment by sex interactions were detected during the dyadic contest for number of aggressive interactions (P 

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 249
Pages 105593
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2022.105593
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Tags
  1. Fostering
  2. Pigs
  3. postnatal period
  4. weaning