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Supplying more straw increases nest-building behaviours in farrowing sows

R. Westin, J. Hultgren, B. Algers

The importance of nest building is well documented and the construction of a nest is crucial for piglets' survival. As such, sows are still genetically programmed to perform nesting behaviour close to farrowing, despite domestication. Prolonged farrowing is undesirable since it is associated with an increased probability of stillbirths, higher incidence of postparturient disorders and decreased fertility. Housing that provides opportunities for sows to express their nest-building behaviour has been shown to reduce the duration of farrowing. This study aimed to assess the effect of providing 15 to 20 kg of chopped straw two days before the expected farrowing date on nest-building behaviour and duration of farrowing.

A group of 20 to 34 sows was selected from each of four commercial farms and studied during one or two consecutive lactations. Within each farrowing batch, 10 pens received 15 to 20 kg of straw two days before expected farrowing, while adjacent (control) pens received smaller daily amounts plus 2 kg at the onset of farrowing. Using video recordings, behaviour from 18 hours prepartum to one hour after birth of the first piglet was observed, as was the duration of farrowing of each sow. Three linear mixed models were used to study …

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