Farmscape for February 2, 2023
Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are exploring the prospects of using play to stimulate improved health and productivity in the swine herd.
The Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Prairie Swine Centre, with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and 14 industry partners, are exploring the prospects of using play to improve the emotional well-being of pigs and improve their resilience and performance.
Dr. Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor Swine Behavior and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare, says scientists have found that play can be successfully promoted within existing systems.
Clip-Dr. Yolande Seddon-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
I think, once we've finished all this work, there will be significance to these findings because we're able to input and demonstrate that we could support increased metrics of quality of life in intensive systems and, if we are able collect scientific data that shows that pigs are finding the play experience rewarding and it is leading to positive changes in their emotional state, we have scientific evidence then that play is a metric for positive animal welfare.
So, play can also be incorporated into animal welfare assessment schemes as a measure of positive welfare and positive emotional states.
If we know that we can support play in systems, we can have a method for farmers to support good animal welfare in existing systems.
You can take this concept far to enhance product quality attributes and, if we are able to find evidence that because pigs find play rewarding, that it is able to improve their disease resilience and overall resilience then we have a win-win situation where we have a management change that could be made to improve animal welfare and also improve quality of life and resilience of the pigs for the benefit of production systems.
Dr. Seddon says, if play is conferring positive welfare in pigs, it can be used to develop animal friendly husbandry systems.
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