Category Archives: Enrichment

Can enrichment help reduce tail docking?

In several episodes, leading welfare researchers explain the results they obtained within the international framework ‘FareWellDock’. This project investigates how to steer away from tail docking. Swedish and Danish researchers took a look at straw – does its use reduce the occurrence of tail biting?

Read more in Pig Progress.

From the article:
Tail docking is completely banned in Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

Science suggests that lack of proper manipulable material is one of several major risk factors for tail biting.

A moderate amount of straw (150 g/pig/day) reduced the risk of injurious tail biting by more than two-fold, while docking seemed to be more effective as it reduced the risk by more than four-fold.

A combination of straw and increased space (1.2 m2 per pig) reduced the risk (of first occurrence) in undocked pigs to the same level as found in docked pigs kept under high stocking density (0.72 m2 per pig) without straw.

To provide a suitable outlet for exploratory behaviour under production conditions, materials have to be varied and complex, and are most effective when easily destroyed by chewing, or if they are edible.

Increasing the amount of straw from 10 to up to 400g/pig/day had multiple positive effects by progressively reducing the occurrence of tail injuries and stomach ulcers, increasing growth rate, increasing straw-directed behaviour, and reducing redirected behaviours towards other pigs.

Left-over straw may be a promising candidate method to screen for appropriate level of straw allocation.

Practical guide to enrichment for pigs

A Practical Guide to Environmental Enrichment for Pigs – A handbook for pig farmers. By AHDB Pork, UK

“This guide aims to give practical advice to pig farmers surrounding the complex
issue of providing suitable environmental enrichment to pigs. It provides
useful information from the knowledge of farmers, researchers and scientific
literature on the different ways environmental enrichment can be provided for
differing types of housing and systems. The information is set out in sections
by housing type, and in each, the types of enrichments that are most suited
to each system are discussed, including their properties, how to present
the enrichment, quantities and practical considerations, such as ease of
installation, maintenance and costs.” (cited from the introduction in the guide).

 

Is it possible to get rid of tail docking

Is it possible to get rid of tail docking? By Vincent ter Beek 2017. Article in PigProgress about FareWellDock.

Tail docking is a well-known practice in pig production, but it is also heavily criticised. An international team of researchers dived into the topic and wondered what its exact effects are on pigs – and what alternatives there are to avoid tail biting….

Read more @ PigProgress.

Note: This article is an approved summary of the Executive Summary which was published earlier this year at http://farewelldock.eu. In future issues of Pig Progress, to be published later this year, several participating researchers in this project will delve deeper into the individual topics they encountered.

Enrichment may affect decision making in pigs

Effects of environmental enrichment on decision-making behavior in pigs
by F. Josef van der Staay, Johanna A. van Zutphen, Mirjam M. de Ridder, Rebecca E. Nordquist, 2017. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Abstract

The animal’s emotional state, eventually modulated by environmental conditions, may affect cognitive processes such as interpretation, judgement and decision making behaviour. The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is a common method to examine decision making behavior in humans in terms of risk avoidance and risk taking that reflects the underlying emotional state of the subject. In the present study, we investigated the influence of environmental conditions on decision-making in pigs. To assess decision making behavior in pigs, the Pig Gambling task has been developed. In this task, the pig can choose between two alternatives. The pigs can make advantageous or disadvantageous choices, where advantageous, low risk choices deliver smaller, but more frequent rewards, whereas disadvantageous, high risk choices yield larger, but less frequent rewards. In the long run, over a series of successive trials, the advantageous choices will yield more reward and less punishment, where punishment consists of delivering reward into the central food trough, but making it inaccessible. After habituation to testing apparatus and testing methods during the course of approximately 4 weeks, all pigs learned to discriminate between the advantageous and disadvangeous alternatives (acquisition phase) at the age of 9 weeks. After a 14-week retention interval, at the age of 24 weeks, retention performance was tested (retention phase). In both phases, 20 trials per day were given to a total of 120 trials. Saliva and hair samples were collected once at the end of both phases for determining cortisol, and body mass was measured at the end of the retention phase. The pigs increased the number of advantageous choices during the course of training. In in the acquisition phase, barren-housed pigs chose the advantageous options more often compared to environmentally enriched pigs. No differences werer found during the retention phase. All pigs made less advantageous choices at the start of the retention phase than at the end of the acquisition phase. The level of hair cortisol was higher in the barren-housed than in the enriched-housed pigs. This difference was more pronounced after acquisition than after retention testing. No other differences were found for cortisol in saliva and hair. The environments did not differentially affect body mass at the end of the study. Summarizing, housing in a barren environment appears to be more stressful than housing in an enriched environment, as indicated by higher hair cortisol levels in barren-housed pigs, but it also improved acquisition of the PGT.

Enrichment for sows

Behavioral preference for different enrichment objects in a commercial sow herd
Kristina M. Horback, Meghann K. Pierdon, Thomas D. Parsons
Applied Animal Behaviour Science 184: 7–15

Highlights

• Sows made contact with rope more frequently than rubber sticks or fixed woodblock.
• At any given time, more sows made contact with rope than the rubber or woodblock.
• Rope preference observed during day and night for two weeks.
• No difference in the lesion severity among the treatment pens.

Abstract

Increased public concern about farm animal welfare is driving both legislative initiatives and market forces to change how sows are housed and managed. This study investigated the use and preference for enrichment items at a 5600 sows commercial sow farm in eastern USA. Gestating sows were housed in static, pre-implantation groups of approximately 75 sows per pen and fed via a single electronic sow feeding station. Each pen contained one of three enrichment objects (OBJ): hanging rope, hanging rubber sticks, and a fixed wood block. Behavioral data was collected from 18 pens during the course of this study on days 1, 3, 5 and 14 (DAY) that sows were in the pen, and at specific times on each day (TIME). For daytime activity, data was collected on-site in three 2-h blocks between 0800 and 1000, 1100–1300 and 1400–1600 for each pen and for nighttime data was collected on Day 1 in three 1-h blocks between 2200 and 2300, 0000-0100 and 0200-0300. Behaviors recorded included proportion of observation time animals interacted with the object, proportion of animals in pen that interacted with the object, and posture (up/down) of each animal in the pen. Lesion scores were recorded prior to mixing and two weeks post-mixing as a proxy for social aggression. The median proportion of observation time that the sows were in contact with the rope (62.4%) was significantly greater than (P < 0.01) the median proportion observed in the rubber pens (31.5%) and significantly greater than (P < 0.01) the median proportion observed in the woodblock pens (24.3%). Mixed design ANOVAs indicated a significant interaction of OBJ and DAY (P < 0.01) and OBJ and TIME (P < 0.01) on the proportion of observation time that the sows were in contact with the enrichment objects. Post-hoc analyses using Bonferroni correction showed that on each observation day and time period, the proportion of observation time that the sows were in contact with the enrichment was significantly greater (P < 0.01) in rope pens than rubber or woodblock pens. These results indicate that sows can exhibit clear preferences for enrichment type, with the sows interacting with the rope significantly more often throughout the study, at each sampling hour. However, there were no significant differences in lesion severity or sow activity between the three enrichment types, suggesting that common behavioral patterns including the establishment of social hierarchy took precedence over the pursuit of available enrichment. Additional studies are needed to understand how preferences for enrichment objects could be utilized to potentially impact sow productivity and welfare.

Factsheets FareWellDock project

The FareWellDock factsheets are out. Below you find the cover factsheet as well as the factsheets on tail docking, enrichment, health and the prediction of tail biting. This post shows images of the English versions, and  links to the pdf version of the English factsheets, as well as all factsheets in Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish. Separate pages are available directly showing the factsheets in the other languages (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish).

Cover factsheet

Cover factsheet in English

Factsheet cover English (pdf)
Factsheet cover Danish (pdf)
Factsheet cover Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet cover Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet cover French (pdf)
Factsheet cover Italian (pdf)
Factsheet cover Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet cover Swedish (pdf)

Tail docking

Factsheet 1 Tail docking English
Factsheet 1 Tail docking English (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 1 French (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 1 Norwegian
Factsheet 1 Swedish (pdf)

Enrichment

Factsheet 2 Enrichment English
Factsheet 2 Enrichment English (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 2 French (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 2 Swedish (pdf)

Health

Factsheet 3 Health English
Factsheet 3 Health English (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 3 French (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 3 Swedish (pdf)

Prediction of tail biting

Factsheet 4 Prediction English

Factsheet 4 Prediction English (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Danish (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Dutch (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Finnish (pdf)
Factsheet 4 French (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Italian (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Norwegian (pdf)
Factsheet 4 Swedish (pdf)

Ice blocks may vaccinate and enrich gestating sow welfare

An investigation of sow interaction with ice blocks on a farm with group-housed sows fed by electronic sow feeders

By M.K. Pierdon, A.M. John and T.D. Parsons. in: Journal of Swine Health and Production 24(6):309-314 · November 2016

Abstract

More gestating sows are being housed in pens where it is challenging to implement controlled exposure to pathogens for disease control (“feedback”). Ice blocks provide a possible vehicle for feedback material in pen gestation. Ice blocks were placed once weekly for 6 consecutive weeks in a pen of approximately 130 sows to test whether sows would interact with the blocks of ice. Sows were housed in a large, dynamic pre-implantation group fed with electronic sow feeders. Each ice block was video-recorded for 1 hour. All sows that contacted it were identified. The number of sows, their duration of contact, and amount of aggression were coded from the video. Median number of sows that interacted with the ice was 94, and increasing the number of ice blocks from two to four per pen increased the median number of sows to contact the ice and the median duration of an individual sow’s contact with the ice, and decreased the amount of aggression at each block. Our findings suggest ice blocks are a convenient vehicle for controlled exposure of feedback material to gestating sows housed in large pens. However, additional studies are needed to validate pathogen exposure with this method.

 

Survey on straw use and tail biting on Swedish pig farms

Wallgren, T. R. Westin and S. Gunnarsson, 2016.  A survey of straw use and tail biting in Swedish pig farms rearing undocked pigs. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica 58:84.

Abstract

Background: Tail biting is a common problem in intensive pig farming, affecting both welfare and production. Although routine tail docking is banned within the EU, it remains a common practice to prevent tail biting. Straw as environmental enrichment has been proposed as an alternative to tail docking, but its effectiveness against tail biting and function in manure handling systems have to be considered. The aim of the study was to survey how pigs with intact tails are raised and how tail biting is handled in Sweden, where tail docking is banned through national legislation. The study emphasises straw usage and its association with tail biting pigs and problems in the manure handling system. The expectation is that this information could be conveyed to the rest of the EU to reduce the need for tail docking.

Results: In a telephone survey of randomly selected Swedish pig farmers (46 nursery and 43 finishing pig units) with at least 50 sows or 300 finishing places, it was found that straw was used by 98% of the farmers. The median daily straw ration provided was 29 g/pig for nursery and 50 g/pig for finishing pigs in systems with partly slatted flooring. The reported prevalence of tail biting was 1.6% at slaughter. The majority of farmers reported that they never had manure handling problems caused by straw (56% of nursery units and 81% of finishing pig units). A proportion of farmers (37%) also provided with additional material apart from straw on some occasions, which may have affected tail biting prevalence and manure handling problems.

Conclusions: Swedish farmers rear undocked pigs without large problems with tail biting. Straw is the main manipulable material used, and additional manipulable material is used to various extents. The low incidence of straw obstructing the manure handling systems implies that it is indeed possible to use straw in partly slatted flooring systems, reducing the need for tail docking. The impact of using additional manipulable material is unknown and requires more investigation to separate the impact of such material from the impact of straw.

German research activities on tail biting

Information about current tail biting projects in Germany can be found in an excel sheet which can be downloaded here from the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut (FLI) homepage.

The German tail biting projects have been summarised in the review “Tail docking in pigs – status quo in Germany”. If you are interested in this article please contact Sabine Dippel (sabine . dippel @ fli . de).

In order to improve knowledge exchange across borders, the FLI is looking for further information about tail and ear biting projects in other countries. If you are or have been involved in such projects, please download the excel list, enter your data on the sheet “other countries” and send the updated file to Christina Veit (Christina . veit @ fli . de). In the near future it is planned to set up a public online database into which information from the Excel list will be transferred.

One of the outcomes from German research activities about tail biting is a scoring key for pigs agreed on by the various people involved across Germany: the DSBS. The scoring key for tail and ear lesions including pictures can be downloaded here (see screenshot below).

Scoring key DSBS

Straw survey in Sweden (3 conference abstracts)

A survey of straw use and tail biting in Swedish undocked pig farms
ICPD 2016, 20-23 June 2016, Wageningen (oral presentation)
T. Wallgren, R. Westin, S. Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden

Abstract

Tail biting is a common problem in todays’ pig production, affecting production and welfare. As tail biting behaviour is more prominent in systems with no or limited access manipulable material, it has been considered related to exploratory behaviours. Tail docking, commonly used as tail biting prevention, is a painful procedure that can decrease pig welfare does not eliminate the tail biting behaviour. Although tail docking is not accepted as a routine procedure according to the EU Directive 2008/120/EC it is still a common practise within the EU, which is why other measures to reduce tail biting behaviour are needed. In Sweden, tail docking is banned and tail biting must be reduced otherwise. Furthermore, Swedish legislation banned fully slatted floors and demands pigs to have access to manipulable material. In order to investigate the prevalence of tail biting in Sweden and the relationship with provision of straw, we performed a telephone survey in nursery (n=46) and finishing pig (n=43) farms. Farmers were interviewed regarding straw usage (e.g. daily ratios) and tail biting (e.g. frequency). All participating farmers gave access to manipulable material and 98% used straw. The median straw ration reported by farmers was 29g/pig/day (min: 8g, max: 85g) in nursery and 50g/pig/day (9g, 225g) in finishing farms when excluding deep litter systems. Farmers reported having observed tail bitten pigs, at any time, in 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing pig farms. Of these, tail bitten pigs were reported to be found ≤2 times/year (78%), 3-6 times/year(17%) or monthly (4%) in nursery and ≤2 times/year (21%), 3-6 times/year (37%), monthly (34%) or weekly (8%) in finishing farms. Finishing farmers reported on average 1.6% tail bitten pigs/batch (0.1-6.5%), which is in line with abattoir data. Spearman rank correlation was used for statistical analysis. Increased straw ration was correlated with decreased reported tail biting frequency in finishing farms (r=-0.39, P=0.03, n=31), and a tendency for this was found in nursery farms (r=-0.33, P=0.08, n=29) when deep litter systems were included. In finishing farms, excluding deep litter systems, an increased tail biting frequency observed by farmers was correlated to the percentage of tail bitten pigs (r=0.64, P=<0.001, n=33), indicating that an increased frequency of tail biting reported may be associated with more pens affected at outbreaks. Even though provided straw rations were quite small (i.e. 30-50 g/pig/day), this amount of straw may provide pigs with enough occupation to limit tail biting outbreaks. We conclude that tail biting can be kept at a low level (ca 2%) in partly slatted flooring systems, without tail docking, by supplying straw.

Raising undocked pigs: straw, tail biting and management
ISAE 201612-15 July 2016 (poster presentation, see below)
Torun Wallgren, Rebecka Westin and Stefan Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden

Abstract

Tail biting in pigs is common in pig production and has been suggested correlated to several behaviours. It is associated with reduced welfare and production losses. A common practice to reduce tail biting within EU is tail docking where part of the tail is removed; a painful procedure that does not eliminate the behaviour. According to the EU Directive 2008/120/EC routine tail docking is banned and other measures to reduce tail biting must replace docking. An alternative is to improve the pig environment by using straw and thus decrease development of tail biting. Straw usage has been difficult to implement since it is argued that straw provision is incompatible with fully slatted floors. In Sweden, tail docking and fully slatted floors are completely banned through national legislation. Furthermore, it is a legal requirement that pigs should have access to manipulable material. The implementation of straw usage in Swedish farms was investigated in a telephone survey to study straw usage and farmers’ opinion on straw impact on tail biting and farm management. A total of 46 nursery and 43 finishing farmers were interviewed, all reporting providing pigs with enrichment material, most commonly straw (98%). Median straw rations provided in systems with partly slatted floor was 29 g/pig/day (8-85 g) in nursery and 50 g (9-225 g) in finishing farms. Straw was the only manipulable material in 50% of nursery and 65% of finishing farms while remaining farms used additional material, most commonly wood shavings (65%). ‘Toys’, e.g. balls and ropes, were used by 13% of nursery and 16% of finishing farmers as a supplement to other manipulable material. Of these, 62% only provided these ‘toys’ occasionally, e.g. at re-grouping or when tail biting had been observed. Problems in the manure handling systems caused by straw had occurred in 32% of the farms, of these 25% had problems at yearly and 7% monthly, or more seldom (58%). Tail biting had been observed in the production at least once by 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing farmers, an average of 1.6% finishing pigs were reported tail bitten per batch (0.1-6.5). Tail biting was observed ≤twice/year (78%) 3-6 times/yr (17%) and monthly (4%) by nursey and ≤2 times/yr (21%), 3-6 times/yr (37%), monthly (34%) and weekly (8%) by finishing farmers. The provided amounts of straw seem to be sufficient to keep tail biting at a low level in undocked pig herds (<2%/batch). The low incidence of straw obstruction in manure handling systems reported also implies that straw usage at this rate 30-50 g/pig/day) is manageable in pig production systems.

Production of undocked pigs, a survey of farmers’ experiences
EAAP Annual Meeting, 29 August – 2 September 2016, Belfast (oral presentation)
T. Wallgren, R. Westin, S. Gunnarsson
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Skara, Sweden

Abstract

Tail biting is a common cause for reduced welfare and production rates within commercial pig production and is more prominent in barren environments. Using enrichment as straw has been shown to reduce tail biting behavior and thus reduce need for tail docking. Implementation of straw in practice has however partly default since it is argued that straw will cause obstruction in the manure handling systems. Sweden has a long tradition of rearing undocked pigs with access to straw due to national legislation banning docking and fully slatted floors while demanding access to manipulable material for pigs. We surveyed 60 randomly selected Swedish nursery and finishing pig farmers’ usage of straw and their opinions on straw impact on tail biting and manure handling management. All farmers provided manipulable material, 98% straw. In 50% of nursery and 35% of finishing farms the straw was complemented with material such as wood shavings. Straw rations were 29g/pig/day (8-85g) in nursery and 50g (9-225g) in finishing farms. Straw was commonly chopped (76%) to a mean length of 6 cm (1-10) in nursery and 8 cm (1-20) in finishing farms. Straw causing problems in the manure handling system occurred in 32% of the farms who experienced this yearly (25%) or monthly (7%). Most common causes were straw making the slurry sluggish, stacked in pivot or blocking slats. The low incidences of problems indicate current systems are able to cope with presented straw rations. Tail biting had been seen at least one time ever in 50% of nursery and 88% of finishing farms. Frequency of observed tail biting was ≤twice/year (78%) 3-6 times/yr (17%) and monthly (4%) by nursey and ≤ 2 times/yr (21%), 3-6 times/yr (37%), monthly (34%) and weekly (8%) by finishing farmers. An average of 1.6 (0.1-6.5) finishing pigs were reported tail bitten each batch. In partly slatted flooring systems a correlation was found between increased tail biting frequency and percentage of reported tail bitten pigs (r=0.64, P= <0.0001, n=38) (Spearman Rank correlation). The limited tail biting problems indicate that straw usage at this level is enough to prevent major tail biting outbreaks in undocked pigs.

Poster straw survey Sweden