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A breed comparison of
post-parturient sow behaviors related to maternal ability
D.C. Lay Jr.1, M.F. Haussmann2, P.A. Reilly2 and R.K. Anthony2
Livestock Behavior Research Unit–Agriculture Research Service, USDA West Lafayette, USA; Iowa State University, Ames, USA
The objective of this study was to quantify some behaviors, thought to be related to maternal ability, between Meishan and PIC Camborough 22s, an U.S. commercial line of sows. Seven Meishan and eight commercial sows were housed individually in 0.6 m by 2.1 m farrowing pens, and observed continuously via video recordings during and for 36 hours after farrowing. In addition, the sows were subjected to two tests, two days post-farrowing, to measure their responsiveness toward piglets. Test 1, consisted of placing a dead pig, warmed to body temperature, into the pen with the sow to determine if she would crush the pig upon lying down. Test 2, consisted of taking one of the sow’s pigs and holding it sideways, thus making it vocalize in front of the sow. The sow’s behavioral reaction to this test was recorded. Vocalizations and postural states were analyzed using the Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney test and while the remaining data were analyzed using the general linear models procedures. During the 3 days post-farrowing, Meishans performed more bouts of standing (P < .008) compared to the commercial line and their bouts of standing were shorter (P < .0001). The commercial line spent a greater time lying during a bout compared to the Meishan sows (2.84 ± .35 vs 1.11 ± .07 hours respectively; P < .0001). No differences were found in Test 1 (P > .80), only one sow from each breed group responded by getting up when it laid upon the dead pig, all other sows laid upon the pig without apparent response. During Test 2, the commercial sows vocalized more than did the Meishan sows (20.0 ± 8.0 vs 1.9 ± 1.1 respectively, P < .02), but no differences in postural response were found (P > .15). Data indicate that Meishan sows were more active after parturition, and that neither breed is responsive to lying on a dead piglet. Non-responsiveness may be due to the lack of vocalization and/or movement of the dead pig. The commercial sows responded to piglet vocalizations with more vocalizations than did the Meishan sows, however, neither breed responded by altering their posture. These data indicate that several stimuli, when combined, are likely to contribute to a sow responding by standing up to avoid crushing her pigs.
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