Sow stress levels and behavior and piglet performances in farrowing crates and farrowing pens with temporary crating

GOUMON, Sébastien, LESZKOWOVÁ, Iva, ŠIMEČKOVÁ, Marie and ILLMANN, Gudrun. Sow stress levels and behavior and piglet performances in farrowing crates and farrowing pens with temporary crating. Journal of Animal Science, 2018, 96, 4571-4578. ISSN 0021-8812.
CathegoryScientific publication in impacted journals
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Farrowing pens with temporary crating have been developed as a compromise between conventional farrowing crates and pens to better accommodate the welfare of both sow and piglets during lactation. However, not much is known about the behavioral and physiological consequences of early removal of confinement on the sow and piglets during lactation. The aim of this study was to assess the effects on sow and piglet performance of temporary crating until 3-d postpartum at 2 times points, immediately after confinement removal and 25 d into lactation. Sows were crated from 5-d prepartum either to weaning (permanently crated-PC group; N = 14) or to D3 (83.0 +/- 1.3 h) postpartum (Temporarily crated – TC group N = 13). Sow postural changes, activity, cortisol and IgA concentrations, and piglet body weight gain and behavior were assessed on D4 and on D25 postpartum, whereas piglet mortality was assessed throughout lactation. Data were analyzed using PROC GLM and PROC GENMOD of SAS. On D4 postfarrowing, TC sows were more active (10.9% vs. 7.1%; SEM: 0.8; P = 0.002), rolled more frequently (21.3% vs. 14.4%; SEM: 1.6; P = 0.008), and had lower IgA concentrations (139.7 vs. 75.2 mu g/mL; SEM: 20.3; P = 0.040) than PC sows. No effects of housing were found (P > 0.05) on standing-to-lying movement or cortisol concentrations. No differences for any variables were found (P > 0.05) on D25. Mortality, body weights, and activity levels at the udder or in the pen of pigs born to PC sows did not differ (P > 0.05) from those of piglets born to TC sows on D4 nor on D25. This study indicates that removal of confinement on the 4th-d postpartum may have had small short-term positive effects on sow behavior and stress levels (as measured by IgA), and that it did not impair piglets’ behavior and performance during lactation. Therefore, this work suggests that temporary crating limited to the first 3-d postpartum might be a feasible alternative to improve welfare under intensive production conditions.