Submitted to: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/30/2004
Publication Date: 7/27/2005
Citation: Toscano, M.J., Lay Jr, D.C. Parsing the characteristics of a simulated udder to determine relative attractiveness to piglets in the 72 hours following parturition. Applied Animal Behavior Science. 92:283-91.
Interpretive Summary: Despite increased numbers in production of piglets per litter, a significant cost to swine producers has been death of piglets through non-intentional crushing by the sow. Our lab has been working to decrease these losses by designing a 'simulated udder' that will attract the piglets away from the sow (and the area of high crushing) using stimuli that the piglets may find more appealing. Previous work has found the simulated udder to be effective at drawing the pigs away; the current work was designed to test the individual elements of the simulated udder: heat, texture, and the sows's odor impregnated on cotton. Our results affirmed the success of the simulated udder though results were inconclusive regarding the impact of the individual elements. Additionally, the presence of the simulated udder variations did not have an effect on increasing the number of live piglets. Piglet crushing remains a primary concern for producers and leads to substantial losses, and the simulated udder may provide an inexpensive way to reduce this problem, however more research is required to understand this complex problem.
Technical Abstract: Crushing of piglets by their sows in the modern production system is a tremendous financial loss to the swine industry and a topic of much research. Our lab had previously designed a 'simulated udder' which successfully used several attractive stimuli that, when placed in the farrowing crate, served to draw the piglet away from the sow to a 'safe area' to avoid being crushed. The current study sought to parse out the relative contributions of the various stimuli to the simulated udder as a whole during the first 72 h postpartum. Several experiments, each comparing a variation of the simulated udder and/or heat lamp only, were conducted and the ratio of piglets using a modified simulated udder to all live piglets was determined. A cotton cloth without sow odor vs. heat lamp only resulted in ratios of .85 vs .67 (p<.005), respectively, across all time points. A cotton cloth with odor vs. cloth with no odor resulted in ratios of .63 vs .82 (p<.005), respectively, during the 12-24 h time span only. All other time points during all other comparisons did not exhibit treatment differences (p<.20). Our results confirmed that the simulated udder is an effective means to draw piglets away from the sow, though the role of individual components remains unclear. Similar to results from the original simulated udder, no treatment was effective at reducing the number of crushed piglets.