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Author(s): Virginie Remience, José Wavreille, Bernard Canart, Marie-Christine Meunier-Salaün, Armelle Prunier, Nicole Bartiaux-Thill, Baudouin Nicks, Marc Vandenheede
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Reference: Applied Animal Behaviour Science 112 (2008) 284–296
Country: Belgium


The minimal legal space allowance for grouped pregnant sows in the EU is 2.25 m2/sow. The effect of higher
space per animal on agonistic behaviour and social stress of animals living in dynamic groups is not known.
Two groups of 34 pregnant Belgian Landrace sows were housed in two pens of respectively 102 m2 (3 m2/
sow) and 76.5 m2 (2.25 m2/sow). Each sow lived there for 15 weeks. Sows were fed through an electronic sow
feeder. According to the dynamic system, one third of each group (i.e. 11 or 12 nearly parturient sows) was
replaced every 5 weeks by the same number of recently inseminated sows.Welfare indicators were collected
during six of these 5 week-periods: performance, agonistic behaviour, skin lesion score and salivary cortisol.
No differenceswere observed for production parameters, or for fighting activity. However, themean number of
one-way aggressions, when observed during 2 h-periods at 3 and 8 days after grouping, was significantly lower
in the large pen than in the small one (respectively 16 X 2 versus 26 X 3, p < 0.01, and 10 X 2 versus 20 X 5,
p < 0.05). The mean number of injuries was also lower with the 3 m2 space allowance, when collected on the
introduced sows one, 2 and 3 weeks after grouping. Some contradictory differences in salivary cortisol were
noted 2 and 26 h after mixing, but without reaching statistical significance. An available area 33% higher than
the EU legal minimum reduced agonistic behaviour and consecutive wounds and thus induced better welfare
conditions for sows living in dynamic groups and fed with an electronic sow feeder. The impact on productivity
and social physiological stress need further research.

For more information the full article can be found at http://journals.elsevierhealth.com/periodicals/applan/issues

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