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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kate Breuer,
Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards
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This study assessed the effect of predisposition to perform harmful social behaviour, maternal rearing environment, and lactation environment on the responses of pigs to weaning at 3 or 5 weeks of age. Predisposed and non-predisposed gilts were selected as dams for this study at 7 weeks of age. Selection was based on behaviour in a "tail chew" test and performance of harmful social behaviour towards penmates. The gilts were mated at puberty with boars of a similar predisposition, and farrowed at approximately 44 weeks of age. Half of the gilts of each predisposition were reared from the time of selection until farrowing in barren environments, and half in enriched environments. During lactation, gilts and litters were either housed in a similar environment to that which gilts had experienced during rearing, or in a different environment (i.e. in terms of being barren or enriched). Litters from each treatment group were weaned at either 3 weeks of age (early weaning), or 5 weeks of age. After weaning, piglets were regrouped and housed in slatted pens without access to substrates. Non-predisposition to perform harmful social behaviour was associated with reduced growth during the post-weaning period (P < 0.01), and increased belly nosing behaviour in response to early weaning (P < 0.05). These effects were not mitigated by maternal experience or lactation environment factors, and it is concluded that this type of selection may not be commercially viable. Rearing dams in barren rather than enriched environments led to reduced welfare in offspring. This was reflected in increased adrenocortical reactivity during the lactation period (P < 0.01), and increased belly nosing behaviour in response to early weaning (P < 0.05). The effect of barren maternal rearing environments on belly nosing behaviour by offspring was eliminated when pigs were housed in enriched lactation environments (P < 0.01). Enrichment during the lactation period also led to improved growth rates in the post-weaning period (P < 0.01). It is suggested that this effect was due to an enhanced ability to cope with the weaning process. Overall, the results show that both genetic and early environmental factors are important determinants of the responses of pigs to weaning. Adverse effects of barren maternal rearing environments may be overcome by housing pigs in enriched lactation environments. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Author(s): O'Connell NE, Beattie VE, Sneddon IA, Breuer K, Mercer JT, Rance KA, Sutcliffe MEM, Edwards SA
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Applied Animal Behaviour Science
ISSN (print): 0168-1591
ISSN (electronic): 1872-9045
Publisher: Elsevier BV
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