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Cassandra Stambuk, Emiline Sundman, Grace Mercer, Nicholas Gabler, Locke Karriker, Suzanne Millman, Kenneth Stalder, Anna Johnson, Iowa State University | October 21, 2021
The period after weaning is one of the most stressful periods in a pig's life. On most commercial farms in the United States, weaning usually occurs at approximately 19 to 23 days of age. This kind of early weaning may bring some benefits to pigs, such as improved health (de Grau et al., 2005), but pigs experience multiple stresses, such as separation from the sow, mixing with unfamiliar pigs, and being transported to a new place. Facilities and the sudden transition from milk to solid feed (Dybkjær, 1992; Weary et al., 2008). These stressors may lead to increased aggression (Hwang et al., 2016), resulting in injury (D'Eath, 2005) and low feed intake (Wensley et al., 2021). One area that needs further exploration is the use of environmental enrichment to increase early feed intake and help the transition of weaned piglets.
Environmental enrichment is a biologically related modification of the animal environment to improve its function (Newberry, 1995). We know that pigs are attracted to smelly things and are easily chewed and destroyed (Van de Weerd et al., 2003). The use of straw, rubber toys, and ropes can help reduce aggression (Apple and Craig, 1992; Lahrmann et al., 2018), but these have not continued to improve performance, such as growth, feed intake, and intestinal health measures (Oostindjer Et al., 2010).
Therefore, we are interested in understanding how nutrient-fortified "biscuits" affect the behavior of weaned piglets in the feeder and improve early feed intake and growth performance.
In this project, 80 mixed pigs (Camborough  X 337, PIC, Hendersonville, Tennessee) aged 19 to 24 days (approximately 6 kg [13 lb]) were placed in 8 commercial nurseries ( 10 pigs/pen). Four treatment methods were compared: (1) Biscuits and Stool Information Chemical Attractant (SC), (2) Biscuits and Sugar Attractant (JAM), (3) Regular Biscuits (POS), and (4) No Biscuits ( NEG). The raw materials for the biscuits come from the early diet of the nursery. In the first 7 days after weaning, each enrichment pen received four biscuits, which were hung on two ropes of the feeder and hung at the height of the pig's eye (Figures 1A and 1B).
Using the collected video, in the first 7 days after weaning, after placing the enriched biscuits, observe each of the eight laps of pigs for one hour. Every time a pig hits, pushes, or turns to another pig, whether it bites the feeder or not, it is recorded. All pigs were individually weighed on day 0 and day 7, and all breeders were weighed every day to evaluate the daily feed loss in order to calculate ADG and ADFI. During this test, all pigs in the pens were scored with a score of 0 to 3, where: 0 point = normal/solid, 1 point = semi-solid/soft, 2 points = semi-liquid, and 3 points = liquid/diarrhea. Finally, collect morbidity and mortality data.
During the first 7 days after weaning, pigs exposed to biscuits containing Fecal Information Chemical Substances (SC) had the highest average total frequency of impacting, pushing and turning their heads in the feeders, and the lowest in pigs without biscuits (NEG ,figure 2) ).
Regardless of the enrichment treatment, the average body length of pigs that are bumped, pushed or turned is very short (≤1 second). Initially, the average total frequency of pigs striking, pushing, and/or turning their heads without biting, biting, and not biting seems surprising, and one might conclude that this type of enrichment is not so much a kind of Help is rather an obstacle. However, we need to put this proof-of-concept study in context: (1) when impacts, pushes, and/or head rotations (with or without bite) occur at the feeder, they are very short, and (2) they do not cause The pig was removed due to injury. It is also incorrect to conclude that pigs that are not enriched did not participate in these behaviors during this time, because they were performed in other areas of the enclosure and were not counted in this study.
During the first 7 days after weaning, all pigs consume a small amount of feed (less than 200 g/day), which is typical of commercial reports (Figure 3A). Interestingly, when ADFI is considered, pigs that do not have attractant biscuits eat the most (Figure 3B). This is a very promising result and deserves further investigation.
Happily, the extra fortification did not disturb the gastrointestinal tract of the pigs, because the pig's manure scored an average of 2. Finally, no pigs were culled or died due to health-related issues in the first 7 days after weaning.
This nutritious biscuit may be a viable choice when customers and consumers ask questions about the quality of life of pigs and enrich their living environment. It is cost-effective, easy to implement, and very suitable for North American commercial nursery systems. Therefore, this proof-of-concept study has produced interesting results that require further commercial investigation.
The project was supported by the National Pork Council, the American Pork Center of Excellence, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, and the Food and Agricultural Research Foundation #18-147. Part of the funding for Dr. Johnson’s salary is supported by the Department of Animal Science, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Iowa State University, and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Source: Cassandra Stambuk, Emiline Sundman, Grace Mercer, Nicholas Gabler, Locke Karriker, Suzanne Millman, Kenneth Stalder, Anna Johnson, Iowa State University, they are fully responsible for the information provided and they own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any content contained in this information asset.
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