Nest-related behaviours in pigs before resting: Observations on commercial farms with no bedding

Research output: Conference materialsPosterpeer-review

Abstract

Domestic pigs in semi-natural environments build two types of nests: preparturient sows build farrowing nests, and pigs of both sexes build resting nests for sleeping. Nest-building before farrowing is a well-studied behavioural need. However, little is known of whether nest-related behaviour in connection to resting is also innately motivated in pigs. The aim of this study was to collect descriptive data on pre-rest behaviours in intensively farmed pigs with no bedding on partly slatted floors. We hypothesized that a pre-resting motivation for nesting behaviour would be seen as frequent oral-nasal behaviours when starting to settle to a recumbent position, and as inserting the head or body under an object of plant-based material. The experiments were carried out on three farms in Finland. In Experiment 1 on 167 breeder gilts, aged 4 months, data were collected from video recordings by continuous observation for 2 h. For each event of settling to recumbency, the occurrence (yes/no) and target of an oral-nasal contact were recorded. Of the total 1079 observed events of settling to recumbency, 92% started with an oral-nasal contact. The most prevalent targets were the floor or another pig, in 52 and 31% of the events, respectively. In Experiment 2, pigs were provided with continuous access to objects suspended on pen walls: 128 growing-finishing pigs, aged 4 months, had pieces of recently harvested birch trees, and 51 suckling piglets, aged 2 weeks, had pieces of sisal rope. Behavioural data were collected from video recordings by continuous observation. Each pig was observed once, until immobile in a recumbent position. Data were collected on the frequencies and durations of inserting and moving the head or body under an object, and on remaining under the object when immobile. In growing pigs, 14% of the pigs moved the head or body under an object for durations ranging from 2 to 19 s; 3% of the pigs remained under the object when immobile. In suckling piglets, 16% of the piglets moved the head or body under an object for durations ranging from 3 to 25 s; 14% of the piglets remained under the object when immobile. The results show that in a considerable part of the observed events of settling down to rest, and regardless of the absence of bedding, pigs showed behaviours similar to manipulating nest materials. This suggests nesting behaviours may be internally motivated in pigs, which warrants further research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages357
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2016
MoE publication typeNot Eligible
EventThe 50th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 201615 Jul 2016

Conference

ConferenceThe 50th Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology
Abbreviated titleISAE 2016
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityEdinburgh
Period12/07/201615/07/2016

Cite this