Early Life Management Influences Lifetime Pig Welfare and Productivity

Apr 01, 2024

Research conducted by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine suggests management changes made early in the life of the pig, such as providing chewable materials and more space to play, results in pigs that are easier to handle and that gain weight faster throughout their lives.

As part of the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare research program, scientists  with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine examined the lifetime effects of management modifications, including the provision of chewable materials such as burlap and rope, increased space to facilitate play and increased human contact during the lactation period, the nursery period and both on long-term welfare and productivity.

Siba Khalife, a PhD candidate swine behavior and welfare at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says, in spite of advancements in production and housing pigs still encounter stresses that can lead to welfare challenges like aggression and tail biting.

Quote-Siba Khalife-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:

We were wanting to look at modifications that we can make to the management that would help pigs in the long term through the entire production cycle.What we came up with is targeting an early life development period where the pig is very naive to its environment.

We decided to see if these early life modifications are able to change the pig's growth and its welfare in the long term if given in early life.So far what we have is preliminary data.We're still working on analyzing everything but we do know that the pigs were easier to handle if they were given the early life modifications in growth to lactation and the nursery period.At the end of nursery, we realized that they were easier to handle and they also had overall higher average daily gain.

Khalife says this work shows even small early life management modifications may make a difference in the resilience of the pigs in the face of typical management stresses resulting in higher growth and better welfare outcomes.Details on this work can be accessed at swinewelfare.ca.

Source : Farmscape.ca
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