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Research Demonstrates Value of Enrichment

24 May 2017, at 12:00a.m.

CANADA - A research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre says studies are showing that enriching the living environment of pigs improves productivity at all stages of growth, Bruce Cochrane reports.

Revisions to Canada's Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs require pork producers to provide multiple forms of enrichment, such as social enrichment, nutritional enrichment, sensory enrichment or occupational enrichment to the living environment of the animals at all stages of growth.

Dr Jennifer Brown, a Research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, explains the goal of enrichment is to provide biological benefit to the pigs and research shows a more varied environment results in reduced stress responses, reduced aggression and reduced injurious behaviors such as tail biting.

Dr Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre

Most of the research has been done on grow finish pigs because that's where we see the most problems of these maladaptive and injurious kind of behaviors such as tail biting so we do want to see more research in the farrowing pens and specifically in nursery pigs.

Some studies have shown that, if nursery pigs receive enrichment, they will go on in later life to show fewer of these negative behaviors.

Also there's clearly some benefits in terms of reduced stress responses when the pigs are being transported to slaughter.

Even there having an auto-sort type system could be considered a form of enrichment because those pigs are becoming familiar with moving around and negotiating these different types of pens and that results in pigs that are easier to handle and calmer when you're transporting them or handling them in a packing plant situation so clearly some benefits have been proven of these enrichments.

Dr Brown encourages producers who have implemented enrichment to share their experiences.

She can be contacted by emailing jennifer.brown@usask.ca.