Space is tied to pig growth and behavior

Space is tied to pig growth and behavior
Sep 27, 2018

Pigs with less space had lower growth rates, the Prairie Swine Centre says

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Nursery pigs require sufficient space or their growth could stall, the Prairie Swine Centre say.

Researchers examined about 1,200 piglets over five weeks within certain space parameters.

Pigs with about 0.72 square metres (7.7 square feet) of space each performed optimally, a report on the study says.

Researchers based the pen spacing off the National Farm Animal Care Council’s Code of Practice for pigs. The Code dictates that each 100 kg (220 lb) pig receives a minimum of 0.72 square metres of space.

But pigs with less space than that 0.7 square metres each showed behavioural changes, especially when it came to eating.

“As space allowance was reduced, the total time spent feeding dropped from 49 to 44 minutes per day and the average length of feeding bouts decreases from 2 to 1.9 minutes,” Dr. Cyril Roy, a researcher with the Prairie Swine Centre, wrote in the report. “However, the number of feeding bouts per 8-hour day increased from 23 to 25.”

Pigs that spent less time eating also grew at a slower pace, researchers found.

“Pigs that had less space had lower growth rates and this was particularly evident in the later weeks, like weeks three to five in the nursery stage,” Dr. Jennifer Brown, a research scientist with the Prairie Swine Centre, told Farmscape today.

Pigs with less than the optimal space requirements also exhibited behaviour associated with crowding.

“Certainly, sitting requires the least amount of space and that lateral laying behaviour requires the greatest amount of space because the pig is laying on its side and stretched out,” Brown told Farmscape.

Laying down is related to comfort, so when pigs sit, it’s because they feel crowded, she added. has reached out to the Prairie Swine Centre for more insight into the research and how these findings can help producers.

Olesksandr Lipko/iStock/Getty Images Plus photo

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