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The effects of design of individual stalls on the social behaviour and physiological responses related to the welfare of pregnant pigs

By J. L. Barnett, P. H. Hemsworth, C. G. Winfield

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Plasma free-corticosteroid concentrations, aggressive behaviour and levels of motivation to interact socially and explore a novel environment were observed to test the hypothesis that the chronic stress response previously observed in tether-housed pigs may have been due to unresolved aggression between adjacent pigs, and was attributable to the design of the stall. Twenty-five pregnant gilts were housed either in unmodified tether stalls; modified tether stalls (designed to reduce aggressive interactions between adjacent pigs by the addition of steel mesh to part of the stall division); cage stalls (also with mesh divisions); and a group pen for 7 pigs. Gilts in the unmodified tether stalls showed a sustained elevation of free-corticosteroid concentrations, indicative of a chronic stress response, changes in their level of motivation to interact with stimulus pigs in a standard test, and a higher proportion of aggressive interactions between neighbouring pigs resulting in withdrawal rather than retaliation. These results suggest reduced welfare in the unmodified tether stalls. The addition of mesh to the sides of the tether stalls reduced the number of interactions between neighbouring pigs compared to the unmodified tether stalls treatment and virtually eliminated aggressive interactions. Concomitant to the reduction in aggressive interactions was a reduction in free-corticosteroid concentrations, suggesting that the welfare of pigs in the modified tether stalls, cage stalls and group treatments was similar. It is concluded that modifying the design of the tether stall to minimize aggressive interactions between adjacent pigs improves welfare by avoiding a chronic increase in free-corticosteroid concentrations.

Date 1987
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 18
Issue 2
Pages 133-142
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Anim. Res. Inst., Dep. Agric. Rural Affairs, Werribee, Vic. 3030, Australia.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal husbandry
  5. Animal rights
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Design
  8. Farms
  9. Gestation
  10. Gilts
  11. Glucocorticoids
  12. Hormones
  13. Housing
  14. Mammals
  15. Meat animals
  16. peer-reviewed
  17. pregnancy
  18. sociability
  19. Social behavior
  20. stalls
  21. Stress
  22. Swine
  23. tethering
  24. welfare
  1. peer-reviewed