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Study shows piglet aggression is linked to draughts

Swine research shows that intermittent draughts can have significantly negative effects on piglet behaviour, increasing earbiting and aggression.

24 April 2019, at 10:48am

The study, authored by Scheepens, C.J.M., M.J.C. Hessing, E. Laarakker, W.G.P. Schouten, M.J.M. Tielen and published in 1991, investigated the effect of intermittent, unpredictable draughts on piglet behaviour. The outcomes of the study still stand today and a number of other studies have observed similar impacts of temperature on the redirection of exploratory behaviour as aggression and biting (Olczak et al., 2015; Kyeiwaa, 2018; Holling et al., 2017).

Abstract

Methodology

The influence of time-unpredictable and uncontrollable draught (forced cold air) on the behaviour of pigs was observed in a climate-controlled pig house with two identical rooms each with five pens. Two days after farrowing, pigs were matched pairwise to correct for genetic, weight and sex differences, and weaned at an average age of 35 days. From then on, the pigs in the experimental room were subjected to draught in a time-unpredictable way. Days with time-unpredictable draught were followed by days without draught. In the control room, the piglets were subjected to ambient temperature but all other conditions matched those in the experiment room. Behavioural studies started on Day 35 and ended on Day 75 of the experiment.

Results

The total activity of the pigs was higher during draught (P<0.005). Explorative behaviour was four times higher during draught periods than during non-draught periods. Redirected explorative behaviour on penmates, including earbiting, occurred more during draught periods (P<0.05). Agonistic behaviour increased strongly during draught periods (P<0.005); headknocks with biting as an excessive form of aggression occurred only during these periods.

Even in periods without draught, pigs in the experimental room had a sternum: recumbent lying ratio which was higher that that of pigs in the control room and lay in contact with penmates more than did pigs in the control room. Unpredictable and uncontrollable draught as a climatic stressor had enormous effects on the behaviour of pigs; redirected explorative behaviour on penmates and excessive aggression could be detrimental for health and the performance of pigs.