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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #161172


item Kanaan, V
item Pajor, E
item Lay, Jr, Donald - Don
item Richert, B

Submitted to: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/22/2004
Publication Date: 8/4/2004
Citation: Kanaan, V.T., Pajor, E.A., Lay, Jr., D.C., Richert, B.T. 2004. The effect of co-mingling litters on piglets' social behavior, performance and behavioral tests [absreact]. Applied Animal Behavior Science. p. 143.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Previous research indicates that allowing litters to interact prior to weaning, improves piglets' ability to cope with weaning stress. Various behavioral tests have been developed to measure coping ability. The purpose of this study was to determine how social enrichment, achieved through co-mingling litters, impacted piglet growth and the results of behavioral tests before weaning. Thirty sows and their respective litters were housed in standard farrowing crates until piglets were 12 days old. At 13 days of age, the partition between two neighboring pens was removed for 20 litters allowing piglets to interact (n=10, 2 litters per group). The remaining litters served as controls (n = 10). All piglet were weighed and injury scored 2,4,9,12,15 and 18 days after birth. There were no differences in weight gained between treatments. Injury scores were higher for co-mingled litters (day 15, P<0.01 Wilcoxon) but these differences disappeared by day 18. The social challenge, isolation and back tests, were performed before and after day 13. Three piglets from each litter, representing a range of weight gained between 2 and 4 days of age, were tested. Between the first and second time the social challenge was performed, co-mingled piglets increased the time spent in non-aggressive proximity to one another (P< 0.001 Wilcoxon) compared to control piglets. In the second social challenge, co-mingled piglets spent more time together (P< 0.05,Wilcoxon) and tended to be less aggressive (P= 0.06, Wilcoxon) than control piglets. Allowing litters to co-mingle before weaning did not affect growth and resulted in fewer aggressive interactions between piglets during the social challenge. However, the back test and the isolation test failed to detect treatment differences. Behavioral tests require additional critical investigation before being used to routinely assess coping abilities.