Farmscape for March 5, 2020
A research Scientist with the Prairie Swine Centre says strategies to promote social development and minimise stress will reduce aggression among sows housed in groups.
Canada's 2014 Pig Code of Practice encourages pork producers to shift from housing gestating sows in stalls to group housing by 2024.
Dr. Jennifer Brown, a Research Scientist Ethology with the Prairie Swine Centre, suggests, to manage aggression, it's important to understand how the sow's social behavior develops over time.
Clip-Dr. Jennifer Brown-Prairie Swine Centre:
If we are developing gilts specifically for group housing systems, there's a lot of things that we can do to promote their social develop.
You can mix them a little bit earlier so they develop social skills and learn how to get along with other pigs even before they go to the nursery.
Mixing them multiple times before they come to the breeding stage will help them become a better citizen when they go into a group housing system later on.
That relates to their learning and their experience.
Also genetics, so all of the genetics companies are now looking at developing sows for groups housing systems.
They are looking at aggressive traits.
If animals are excessively aggressive, that's going to be damaging to other animals in groups so we can actually deliberately select against aggression because it's a behavior that is fairly heritable and so you can select for that trait.
Understanding the social hierarchy of sows is very important because, when we put them in a group, there's always going to be a social order that forms.
If sows are familiar with one another that's obviously going to reduce the aggression between them.
Sorting sows by parity, so you don’t want to have your gilts or your parity ones in with your older parity sows because it's a more threatening social situation for them.
So there's many things that we can do to reduce that social stress.
Dr. Brown says, now that producers are more familiar with the different group housing systems, we need to dig a little deeper into how we manage sows in these groups
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