Submitted to: International Society of Applied Ethology
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/24/2002
Publication Date: 8/7/2002
Citation: DAMM, B.J., PEDERSEN, L.J., MARCHANT FORDE, J.N., GILBERT, C.L. DOES FEEDBACK FROM A NEST AFFECT PERIPARTURIENT BEHAVIOUR, HORMONES AND HEART RATE IN GILTS?. INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF APPLIED ETHOLOGY. 2002. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: To determine the effects of feedback from a farrowing nest on sow welfare, as determined by behaviour, hormones and heart rate, 20 gilts housed in central-nest-farrowing-pens were permitted to build a nest of peat, straw and branches. Ten sows then had their nest removed (NR) 10h after the onset of nest-building and again every 4h until parturition, whereas 10 sows were given sham removals (C). Sow periparturient postures, nest-building and responses to piglet-initiated snout contact and time from birth until suckling in piglets were recorded. Periparturient maternal heart rate was measured and blood samples were taken via a jugular catheter every 20 minutes over the last 7h prepartum and analysed for plasma cortisol and oxytocin. During the last 4h prepartum plasma cortisol was higher for NR than C sows (p=0.04). Oxytocin was unaffected by treatment. Overall, treatment had no effect on heart rate. However, as parturition approached, heart rate increased in NR but not in C sows (p=0.03), although there were no prepartum treatment differences in postural or nest-building behaviour. Maternal responsiveness towards piglets and frequency of postural changes was higher during the first 2h after birth of the first piglet than in the following 6h (both p<0.0001) after which they again increased (p=0.09 and p=0.01, respectively). NR sows were more responsive towards piglets (p<0.0001) and their piglets took longer from birth until first sucking than C piglets (p=0.05). The prepartum increases in plasma cortisol and heart rate in NR sows, in the absence of greater postural or nest-building activity, suggest that nest removal was stressful and affected later sow behaviour towards piglets and teat searching in piglets. The observed treatment effects could have resulted from sows perceiving environmental novelty following nest disruption or a specific lack of feedback from the nest. The results emphasise the importance of farrowing environment and the opportunity to construct a nest on sow welfare.