Behaviour and performance of pigs finished on deep bedding with wood shavings or rice husks in summer
Concern that excessive temperatures arising from substrate fermentation could have a deleterious effect on voluntary feed intake and weight gain, especially during the hottest times of the year, might be a barrier to the widespread adoption of deep-bedding systems for pig production in Brazil. The aim of this study was to compare the behaviour and performance of pigs reared on deep bedding with two different substrates, wood shavings and rice husks, or in barren, part-slatted, concrete-floored pens (n = 4 pens per treatment), from 60 days of age through to slaughter, during the summer months in Santa Catarina, southwest Brazil. Floor and pigs' skin temperatures were 2.2 and 3.9% higher, respectively, in the pens with bedding than with concrete flooring; these differences resulted in modest, non-significant effects on performance and meat quality. Certain elements of the behaviour of pigs reared with bedding, such as increased play activity and substrate manipulation and less peer-directed behaviours, indicated improved welfare compared to pigs reared in concrete-floored pens. Performance and meat quality were similar in bedded pens with either wood shavings or rice husks. In both bedding substrates, the animals spent more time lying or standing on the beds than on the concrete platforms, where the feed and the water troughs were located, despite the higher temperature in the substrate compared to the concrete platform; suggesting that such temperature differences were not relevant for the thermal comfort of the animals. These results indicate that both substrates, abundant and readily available in the region, are suitable bedding materials for pigs.
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