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Enrichment for sows: increasing positive behavior

Posted in: Pork Insight Articles, Prairie Swine Centre by Ken Engele on October 1, 2018

On Canadian farms, interest in enrichment has grown recently due to changes in the Code of Practice requirements, stating that ‘Pigs must be provided with multiple forms of enrichment… to improve the welfare of the animals through the enhancement of their physical and social environments.’ This change, along with increasing adoption of group housing for sows led a team of Canadian researchers, directed by Dr. Laurie Connor at the University of Manitoba, to study how best to provide enrichment to sows in groups.

Most studies on enrichment have looked at grow-finish pigs because this is the stage when most damaging behaviours appear, such as tail biting or flank sucking, and the effects can be devastating. A few studies have been done on sows, with the general conclusion that feeding fibrous materials such as straw or hay is best: pigs are highly attracted to items that are both manipulable and consumable, and for feed-restricted sows the increase in gut fill is an added bonus.

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