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Early Life Management of Pigs Impacts Lifetime Health, Productivity and Behavior

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine expect providing environmental enhancements to pigs during their first weeks of life to improve welfare and productivity during their entire lifetime.

In an effort to improve the lifetime productivity of pigs, researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are exploring the effect of early life management strategies on longer term welfare outcomes.

Siba Khalife, a PhD candidate swine behavior and welfare at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, explains the performance of pigs provided extra space, chewable materials of burlap and rope and calm human interaction for five minutes three times per week was compared to traditionally raised pigs from birth to slaughter.

Quote-Siba Khalife-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:

The advancements in production and housing have been rapidly happening in the Canadian swine industry but, consequently the pigs still do encounter stresses in the modern production environment that  can lead to welfare problems like aggression and tail biting.In the first zero to 12 weeks the domestic pig undergoes a large amount of development and critical changes happen in this period to their stress response systems and the behaviors that they learn.
Because of that the experiences the pig goes though in this period of life has long lasting effects on both its welfare and its productivity.

The data was focused on production parameters like average daily and feed conversion efficiency and some welfare outcomes like play and aggression behavior.


We also looked at health data, so stress markers in the body, sickness, incidents of injury and what we want to do is compare those outcomes between the management treated pigs to those raised in the standard production housing.

We expect the management treated pigs to show higher growth throughout their lives at different stages and to play more and show less aggression because they've developed where they learn different behaviors in early life and to have improved herd health compared to the standard pigs.

Khalife says the project is in the early data analysis stage but barn staff have reported the management treated pigs have less aversion and approach stock people more readily.

Source : Farmscape.ca

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