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Determining Effective Enrichments for Group Housed Sows

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre by PSCI on November 2, 2016


Effective enrichments have been shown to reduce aggression and injuries, and can be an effective tool to improve the management of group housed sows. This project set out to identify the most effective forms of enrichment based on attractiveness, durability, and sustainability of a range
of enrichment objects. The objects identified as most effective within this study will be used in a future enrichment study.  Groups of 28 multi-parity sows and gilts were housed in walk in/lock in
stalls with a partially slatted loafing area. Five treatments were examined over five days, including: 1) a horizontal piece of wood (4”x4”), suspended on chains between two posts; 2) a block of wood (18”x 2”x 4”), attached to a chain allowing the block to rest at a 450 angle; 3) three items (rope, chain, and wood block) hung together on a chain; 4) straw provided in two metal racks;
and 5) straw placed on the solid floor at 300g/day/sow.  When looking at the overall interaction, the percentage of sows interacting with enrichment items on day 1 far exceeded those on days 3 and 5. This habituation response was expected. There was an increase in sows lying down throughout the five day treatment with the swing, straw on the floor,  and straw in a rack treatment groups. Ranking the enrichment treatments according to durability, safety, and sow attractiveness resulted in the following ratings (first to last): straw on the floor, straw in a rack, three-item enrichment, and the block of wood. Based on these results, the straw, cotton rope and the wooden block treatments will be further examined in the next phase of the study.

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