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Optimal creep light and mat temperature could reduce piglet crushing in loose farrowing

Research published in ANIMAL indicates that optimal management of light and mat surface temperature promote greater piglet use of the creep, which has been associated with reduced piglet crushing.

7 August 2019, at 10:46am

A new study authored by researchers from across the globe investigates how establishing optimal conditions in the creep can reduce incidences of piglet crushing in free farrowing systems by encouraging piglets to spend more time in their creep area.

The study

A total of 108 sows and their piglets were studied in Sow Welfare and Piglet Protection (SWAP) pens on a commercial piggery, across two replicates.

Sows were randomly assigned to pens arranged within two creep treatments (bright creep: 300 lx vs. dark creep: 4 lx), considering mat temperature as a co-variate.

Twelve sows and their litters in each treatment (24 in total) had their behaviour continuously recorded for 72-h post-partum (pp), and four focal piglets per litter were weighed on the first and third days pp.

In-situ behaviour observations were performed daily (from 8:00-h to 17:00-h) on all sows and their litters, every 15 min over 72-h pp to record:

  • piglet time spent in the creep;
  • latency to enter the creep for the first time;
  • latency for the litter to remain in the creep for at least 10 min; and
  • piglet and sow use of pen areas immediately in front of (A2) and farthest from the creep (A3).
piglets sleeping in a creep area on a heated mat with a warm red lamp above

Conclusions

The data analysis indicated a significant correlation between the brightness in the creep and the amount of time the piglets spent in the creep. Piglets in pens with bright creeps spent on average 7.2 percent more time in the creep than those piglets in pens with dark creeps.

For each degree increase in mat temperature, piglets also spent on average 2.1 percent more time in the creep - a significant finding.

Piglets in pens with bright creeps also spent less time in A2 (immediately in front of creep) and spent the least time in A3 (farthest from the creep).

Additionally, creep mat temperature and brightness did not affect sow use of pen areas and piglet weight gain.

Overall, piglet use of the creep increased with mat temperature and brightness in the creep meaning less time was spent in the main pen area, thereby potentially reducing the risk of crushing in loose farrowing systems.