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Parity Influences the Demeanor of Sows in Group Housing

Clarke, Taya, Pluske, John R., Miller, David W., Collins, Teresa, Fleming, Patricia A.
Journal of applied animal welfare science 2018 v.21 no.1 pp. 17-26
animal welfare, avoidance behavior, group housing, mixing, nonverbal communication, pregnancy, sows
Across the globe, producers are moving from individual housing to group housing for sows during gestation. Producers typically group sows of a range of parities together, although the impacts are largely unknown. This study examined the behavioral expression at mixing for young, midparity, and older sows. Ten mixed-parity groups were filmed at mixing on a commercial piggery. One-minute clips were edited from continuous footage where focal sows of known parity could be identified, and scored for qualitative behavioral expression. Parity 2 and 6 sows were more calm/tired than Parity 4 sows, who were more active/energetic. Parity 2 sows were more curious/inquisitive than Parity 4 and 6 sows, who were more anxious/frustrated. Correlations between qualitative behavioral expression and activity indicated sows scored as more calm/tired spent a greater proportion of time standing, while sows scored as more active/energetic spent more time performing avoidance behavior. Different body language is likely to reflect physical or affective differences in how sows cope with mixing.