The effects of socializing and environmental enrichments on sow and piglet behavior and performance
Keywords:performance, piglet, social behavior, sow, weaning
This study was conducted to, 1) determine the effects of socializing piglets prior to weaning on piglet behavior and performance and sow behavior, and 2) determine the effects of socializing piglets prior to weaning and inclusion of pen enrichment on nursery pig behavior and performance. Socialized piglets spent a shorter amount of time lying down during the first 24 hours following barrier removal compared to all other times and exhibited an increase in agonistic behavior. Sows had higher levels of cortisol and spent less time lying down during the first 48 hours after piglet socialization compared to all other times. In the nursery, piglets that were socialized prior to weaning had higher average daily gain (ADG) (0.48 ± 0.02 kg) and lower occurrence of agonistic behavior (30.0 ± 2.5 percent) during the first six hours after weaning compared to those piglets that were not socialized prior to weaning (0.39 ± 0.03 kg and 85.0 ± 3.5 percent, respectively). Pens with environmental enrichment contained fewer piglets displaying agonistic behavior compared to pens without environmental enrichment during the first 12 hours after weaning. The results of this study suggest that socializing piglets from different litters prior to weaning leads to temporary stress in lactating sows and an increase in agonistic behavior in piglets, but improves their performance after weaning. Inclusion of environmental enrichment in the nursery is an effective means to reduce agonistic behavior between piglets.