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The effect of nesting material on the nest-building and maternal behavior of domestic sows and piglet production

Chaloupková, H., Illmann, G., Neuhauserová, K., Šimečková, M., Kratinová, P.
Journal of animal science 2011 v.89 no.2 pp. 531-537
farrowing, farrowing crates, maternal behavior, mortality, nesting, nests, piglets, probability, sawdust, sows, straw
Nest building is an important part of maternal behavior in domestic pigs. The aim of the study was to assess the effect of nesting material sawdust vs. straw on sow behavior 24 h before and after birth of the first piglet (BFP) and piglet production. Sows, housed in farrowing crates, were randomly divided into 2 treatments: sawdust (n = 12) and straw (n = 13). Sawdust and straw were provided during the pre- and parturient period; after parturition, straw was given to both experimental groups. The prepartum nesting period (the time interval between the first and last nest-building records, including all other activity and resting before BFP), the nesting records (number of nesting records), nesting duration (duration of all nesting records), the start and termination of nesting, and the frequency of prepartum postural changes were collected 24 h before BFP. After BFP, number of nesting records and time to first sucking of the litter were collected. Frequency of postural changes and duration of udder access were collected 24 h after BFP during 3 time periods (during parturition, from the end of parturition to 12 h after BFP, and 12 to 24 h after BFP) and the frequency of nursing during 2 time periods (from the end of parturition to 12 h after BFP, and 12 to 24 h after BFP). Piglet BW gain and mortality were estimated 24 h after BFP. Data were analyzed using PROC MIXED and the probability of the piglet mortality using PROC GENMOD in SAS. Nesting material did not affect (P > 0.10) most of sow prepartum nesting behavior and had no effect (P > 0.10) on the prepartum frequency of postural changes. Sows from the sawdust treatment had a longer nesting period (P < 0.05), and nest building tended to start sooner (P < 0.10) than in the straw treatment. Nesting material had only a small effect on later maternal behavior. Sows from the straw treatment tended to have more nesting records after BFP (P < 0.10). The frequency of postural changes was affected by the interaction (P < 0.01) between treatments and time period: sow from the straw treatment had more postural changes during parturition compared with other time periods and sawdust treatment. No effect (P > 0.10) of the nesting material on piglet BW gain and mortality was found. The results suggest that sawdust compared with straw as nesting material provided to sows before and through parturition does not negatively affect maternal behavior during the 24 h before and after parturition or piglet production. Therefore, sawdust can be recommended as a suitable nesting material for farrowing sows when straw is not available.