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Some aspects of weight gain and social behavior in caged early weaned piglets

Some aspects of weight gain and social behavior in caged early weaned piglets

Monitore Zoologico Italiano 22(1): 1-16

Some observations were carried out on early weaned piglets (Sus scrofa L.) in order to assess whether changes of social or physical environment had any effect on the behavioural and productive responses to intensive housing. Experiment I focused on the effect of weaning (i) by moving the piglets from the farrowing pen to a flat-deck cage or (ii) simply by removing the sow. A significant decrease in growth rate was recorded in piglets moved to the flat-deck cage. There was no effect of either maintaining the litter intact or mixing the animals from different litters. Mixed piglets, without respect to the type of weaning, showed a significant increase of aggression in the early post-mixing days. Experiment II was set up in order to detect a possible behavioural causation for the marked reduction in growth rate during the early days in the flat-decks, as observed in the previous study. It was hypothesized that the differential rate of growth between the heaviest and the lightest piglets could be due to differences in behaviour. The heaviest (H) and lightest (L) piglet in the group were observed as focal animals for 3 weeks starting from weaning. The piglets at 3 weeks after weaning were ranked according to their increase in weight since weaning. As in the first experiment a negative correlation was noted between the weight at weaning and the rank of increase, but the behaviour patterns displayed by both individuals did not differ sufficiently to allow us to accept the starting hypothesis. Nevertheless, a high amount of stereotyped patterns were recorded, confirming other the conclusions of authors that flat-deck cages are fundamentally stressors for early weaned piglets.

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