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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SAFEGUARDING WELL-BEING OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Title: The behavior nutrition interaction in swine

Author
item Marchant-Forde, Jeremy

Submitted to: American Society of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: February 10, 2009
Publication Date: N/A

Technical Abstract: From a production standpoint, nutrition management aims to maximize output for minimal input. With the breeding sow, the aim is to maximize reproductive output, with easy farrowing, large and heavy litters, good lactation, and quick recovery and re-breeding. For the wean-to-finish pig, the aim is to maximize growth efficiency, with pigs growing as fast as potential allows on as little food as possible. Under commercial conditions, the pig is given a highly nutritious, but monotonous food source, which may or may not be accessible ad libitum and which may or may not be accessible by all animals at the same time. With modern diets, the pig can meet its daily energetic requirements quickly. Naturally, the pig is a foraging omnivore, spending a large proportion of the day rooting and searching for a varied, relatively low energy food source, usually eating simultaneously as a group. Thus, some aspects of nutrition management in commercial production conflict with the natural behavior of the pig, affecting well-being. With sows, there may be issues of chronic hunger, as the sow is fed her daily ration in a single meal. Also, feeding system design may influence aggressive behavior in group housing, as food becomes a limited resource and subject to competition. At weaning, piglets are weaned abruptly and undergo a sudden change from milk-only diet to solid food, impacting gut morphology and also behavior, as the pigs adapt to the change. Their ability to cope with weaning can be influenced by the pre-weaning management and weaning age. With growing and finishing pigs, there may be issues with feed availability as it pertains to the number of pigs per feeding space, placement of feeders within the pen and group size. The physical properties of the feed (ingredients, particle size, pelleting versus meal versus mash) may impact the behavior, health and well-being of the pigs. The diet may contain feed additives, such as repartitioning agents and growth promoters, some of which may affect the pigs’ physiology and behavior, again leading to potential well-being concerns. Overall, a clearer understanding of how behavior interacts with nutrition can enable husbandry to be adjusted to better safeguard swine welfare.

Last Modified: 8/21/2014
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