story to find out more.
From right, ARS
research leader Don Lay, Purdue University grad student Vanessa Kanaan and
Purdue associate professor Ed Pajor observe piglets from different litters in
studies to determine whether socialization helps them cope better later in
life. Click the image for more information about it.
Company or a Snack? Letting Pregnant Sows
Choose By Don
Comis March 15, 2005
Pressing the bar enough times brings a little snack one day,
socializing with neighbors the next day. So far, pregnant sows are choosing the
Scientists have often compared pregnant sows in different housing
situations. But now scientists from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Purdue University are asking the moms-to-be
for their preferences.
Purdue University animal behavioralist Ed Pajor, at West Lafayette,
Ind., decided to do just that in a search for what little extras might enrich
life for sows. Pajor is part of a team of Purdue and ARS animal welfare
Lafayette that includes ARS animal behavioralists
Marchant-Forde. The ARS part of the team also includes immunologist
Eicher and neuroscientist
Pajor set up a study with 16 pregnant sows, studying four at a time.
He put each animal in a conventional gestation stall designed to confine
pregnant sows--but then added a control bar. On one day the bar allows a snack.
The next day it opens a door to allow a visit with other sows. This goes on for
several days, with the number of required bar presses increasing each day.
The sows' limits on how many times they would press the bar with their
snouts for a reward were about the same whether the treat was food or
socializing, indicating that socializing wasn't anything special to them.
But the next round of experiments will show if sows refine their
choices in a more "homey" environment--one where there's more to do, a soft
floor and plenty of straw to satisfy instincts for nesting or rooting.
The conventional stalls used in the first study are barren
environments with slatted, cement floors. Pregnant sows are isolated, one to a
stall, to make sure that each gets her proper diet.
about the research in the March 2005 issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.