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Positive handling in late pregnancy and the consequences for maternal behaviour and production in sows

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Inger Anderson, Emerita Professor Sandra Edwards


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Fifty-two sows were subjected to a human approach test (HAT) at 2 weeks, and again at 3-4 days, before expected farrowing. Latency to contact and time spent exploring the experimenter, and overall confidence score (1 = low to 6 = high) were recorded. Fifty percentage of the sows received positive handling for 1 min twice daily, 5 days a week from first HAT to farrowing, whilst the others were controls without additional handling. Behaviour was video-recorded from 2 days before until 4 days after farrowing. In the first HAT, 37% of sows immediately made contact with the experimenter (score 6), whereas 20% withdrew (scores 1 and 2). To give the sows a positive association to the handler, feed rewards were given. The sows accepted a feed nut from the hand significantly sooner than petting (P = 0.05). After 2 weeks of handling, the confidence score had increased significantly (P < 0.001), but a similar tendency occurred for controls (P = 0.06). For the most fearful sows (scores 1 and 2), the handling procedure resulted in a major increase in confidence score (P < 0.001). There were no significant differences in piglet mortality or early lactation piglet weight gain between treatments. In the control group, sows with a high (6) initial confidence score tended to have shorter farrowing duration than sows with a low (1 or 2) initial confidence score (P = 0.07). For sows with a low initial confidence score, the positive handling resulted in a shorter farrowing duration, but the effect was not significant. In the last 8 h before farrowing, positively handled sows also tended to rest more than sows in the control group. © 2005.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Andersen IL, Berg S, Boe KE, Edwards S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Applied Animal Behaviour Science

Year: 2006

Volume: 99

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 64-76

ISSN (print): 0168-1591

ISSN (electronic): 1872-9045

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2005.09.007


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