Main content area

The effect of temporary confinement of hyperprolific sows in Sow Welfare and Piglet protection pens on sow behaviour and salivary cortisol concentrations

Hales, J., Moustsen, V.A., Nielsen, M.B.F., Hansen, C.F.
Applied animal behaviour science 2016 v.183 pp. 19-27
animal behavior, cortisol, diurnal variation, farrowing, lactation, piglets, pregnancy, sows, weaning
The aim of this study was to investigate effects of confinement in Sow Welfare and Piglet protection pens (SWAP pen) for four days after farrowing on sow behaviour and salivary cortisol levels. Sows were randomly allocated to three treatments: loose-loose (LL), loose-confined (LC) or confined-confined (CC). Sows in LL were loose housed when they entered the farrowing unit until weaning. Sows in LC were loose housed to the end of farrowing and then confined to day 4 of lactation. Sows in CC were confined from day 114 of gestation to day 4 after farrowing. All sows were loose housed from day 4 to weaning. Regardless of treatment, sow behaviour was characterized by a low frequency of postural changes (<12 postural changes in 2-hour intervals) and a large proportion of time spent in lateral recumbency (80–120min of 2-hour intervals), especially on days 1 and 2 after farrowing. Sows spent similar amounts of time lying lateral in the three treatments (P=0.67). Standing occurred more during the day than during the night, but the diurnal pattern differed across treatments (P=0.008). Postural changes increased during the day in all treatments but more so in LL than LC and CC (P=0.02) and LL sows had higher frequencies of getting up (P≤0.03) and lying down (P≤0.03). Sows in LL had more nursings than LC and CC sows on day 1 (P<0.001), and more nursings than CC sows on day 2 (P=0.04) and day 3 (P=0.01). Nursing duration decreased from day 1 to day 2 in all treatments (P<0.05), and was further decreased to day 3 in LL (P<0.001). Sows in LL terminated more nursings than LC and CC sows on day 3 (P≤0.001). Salivary cortisol concentration was higher in LL sows than LC sows on the day before farrowing (day −1) as well as day 1 and day 2 after farrowing (P<0.05) and higher than CC sows on days −1–3 (P<0.01). Salivary cortisol was higher in LC sows than CC sows on days 0 and 1 (P<0.05). The results suggest that confinement in SWAP pens for 4days after farrowing influenced sow behaviour, although only to a minor degree as very little activity occurred. Behavioural differences were not reflected in salivary cortisol concentrations but confinement before farrowing decreased the salivary cortisol response.