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(306) 373-9922

Fax: 306-955-2510

2105 – 8th Street East

Saskatoon, SK, S7H 5N9

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Prairie Swine Centre  >  Ethology
Ethology Research Group

The overall goal of the ethology group is to find solutions to production challenges related to pig behaviour and welfare. Many of these issues are linked to implementation of the Code of Practice for Care and Handling of pigs. The Code recommends group housing of gestating sows and requires that all pigs receive ‘multiple forms of enrichment’ throughout the production cycle. The ethology group has completed research on these issues and collaborated in technology transfer to facilitate the transition to group housing and implementation of effective enrichment. Sow health management is another important area of research, with research completed on risk factors for sow lameness and shoulder lesions, and the influence of temperament and social status on sow welfare and productivity. Other areas of study include research on pain mitigation at castration and tail docking, and effective ways of implementing these practices on-farm and alternative systems in farrowing and nursery to reduce pre-weaning mortality and promote piglet health.

Current Areas of Research
  1. Provision of different types of enrichment and understanding their effects on health, welfare and productivity in sows and nursery pigs
  2. Understanding the impact of different group housing systems on sow health, welfare and productivity
  3. Studying the effects of transportation on weaner pigs and interventions to mitigate the effects of long transports
  4. Assessment of analgesics and implementation methods for providing pain control at castration
  5. Motivation of sows to obtain exercise and impact of greater freedom of movement on sow welfare, reproductive performance and piglet viability.

Current ethology research projects are funded by the Government of Saskatchewan- Agriculture Development Fund, Swine Innovation Porc, MITACS, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Current Ethology Group Memebers

Jennifer Brown, PhD
Research Scientist

Jennifer has always had an interest in animal behaviour and grew up caring for the family pets and farm animals. Before starting her career in the swine industry, Jennifer lived in PEI and worked in research related to clinical chemistry, toxicology and human health. She completed a PhD at the University of Guelph in 2009, studying the relationship between pig temperament and behavior, stress physiology and pork quality in market pigs. At the Prairie Swine Centre she leads an applied research program looking at issues related to pig behavior and welfare, including studies on the effects of long duration transport, gestation housing and management, sow lameness, pain control at castration, euthanasia, environmental enrichment for pigs and space allowances for weaner pigs. She and husband, Peter, live with a collection of animals on a rolling half section near Hafford, SK.

Yolande Seddon, PhD
NSERC Industrial Chair in Swine Behaviour and Welfare

Dr. Seddon is based at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research program focuses on the behaviour and welfare of farmed pigs and explores the interactions between management, pig behaviour, welfare and productivity, with a strong multidisciplinary and applied research approach. In collaboration with the Prairie Swine Centre, Dr. Seddon has regular knowledge transfer of research findings to industry.

Broad research interests include:

  • Perception of the environment by animals
  • Influence of environment and management on behavioural development and the relationship to welfare status of the individual
  • Optimizing behavioural development to promote good welfare and productivity
  • Biomarkers predictive of welfare

Dr. Seddon’s previous research includes studies on management of group housed gestating sows, lameness prevalence and interventions, temperament assessment, piglet pain behaviour and management of pain, housing systems and economic evaluations.

The ultimate goal of Dr. Seddon’s research is to contribute to the development of lasting solutions to animal welfare challenges, and to help to advance sustainable farming practices.e Seddon.

Mariia Tokareva
PhD Student

Mariia has educational background in both veterinary medicine and animal behaviour. She obtained her DVM degree from Bila Tserkva National Agrarian University (Ukraine), and completed MSc program in Animal Behavior at the University of Life Sciences in Lublin (Poland), where she worked on behavioral reactivity assessment in dogs. Mariia also worked as a staff member at a commercial pig barn in Denmark, and as a veterinary technician at small animal hospital. Currently she is a PhD student at the University of Saskatchewan working with Dr. Seddon and doing her research at the Prairie Swine Centre. Mariia’s project involves studying sows’ motivation to exercise outside of gestation stalls and the impact of a greater freedom of movement on sow welfare, reproductive performance, placental development and piglet viability.

Hauwa Bwala
MSc Student

Hauwa (Ha-wah) moved to Canada from Nigeria where she trained and practiced as a veterinarian. Being from the northernmost part of her country, a region where livestock and poultry farming is embedded in everyday living, she developed an appreciation for animals at an early age. She also holds a degree in public health and is very interested in the relationship between animal and human welfare. Hauwa’s MSc research is on the “welfare of weaned piglets during long distance transport”. The study will determine the effects of transport on weaned piglets for long durations under commercial conditions, and the implications this may have for industry practices and optimum productivity. In her free time, Hauwa, an avid sports fan loves to play badminton, basketball, and soccer or simply cheer on her favourite sport teams.

Emily Smith
Summer Research Assistant

Emily is a DVM student graduating in 2021. She holds a BSc. in Biochemistry from the University of Regina. Despite her background in companion animal medicine, her passion for animal welfare brought her to Prairie Swine Centre as an Ethology summer student operating under the Interprovincial Research Program. Under the guidance of Drs Yolande Seddon and Jennifer Brown, she is validating a method for measuring cortisol in sow and piglet hair, as well as collaborating with industry partners to determine the welfare and productivity effects of long duration transport on weaned piglets.

Hayley Bowling
Summer Research Assistant

Hayley is a fourth year student in the BSc. Animal Bioscience program at the University of Saskatchewan. She is originally from Calgary, Alberta with a background involving primarily companion animals and horses, but throughout the course of her degree she’s developed a passion for livestock and the complex science of applied ethology and animal welfare. She is currently working towards completion of her undergraduate thesis under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Brown (Prairie Swine Centre) along with mentorship from committee members Dr. Karen Schwean-Lardner (Department of Animal and Poultry Science) and Dr. Yolande Seddon (Western College of Veterinary Medicine). Her project, funded by an NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Award, aims to determine the effects of practical environmental enrichment objects on the growth, play behaviour, aggression, and overall welfare of piglets in farrowing, at weaning, and during the nursery phase.

Erin Carlson
Summer Research Assistant

Erin is in process of completing her DVM at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (2021), hoping to work with a variety of sizes and species of animals. She completed her BSc in Animal Health at the University of Alberta with a special interest in bovid species. At the Prairie Swine Centre, she worked on an enrichment study looking at utilization of space in farrowing environments to promote play behaviour under supervision of Dr. Yolande Seddon.