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Behavioral indexes of piglet welfare: Comparison of indoor and outdoor housing systems

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The purpose of this experiment was to establish behavioral indexes of piglet welfare. Forty-eight piglets were allocated to either four indoor pens or four outdoor pens (six piglets per pen). The indoor system was a commercial pen that consisted of a concrete floor and a slat floor. The outdoor system had a dirt paddock with a wooden hutch. Growth performance, salivary cortisol levels, skin lesions and behaviors of the piglets were monitored for 4 weeks. Sixteen types of behaviors were recorded by using 2-min instantaneous scan sampling for 8 h/day. Growth performance and salivary cortisol levels did not significantly differ between the two housing systems. On the other hand, skin lesions and behaviors were significantly affected by the housing system. The number of skin lesions was higher in the indoor system. In addition, piglets in the outdoor system showed more investigative and social-play behaviors than those in the indoor system. Piglets in the indoor system showed more resting, drinking, moving, fighting, and conflict behaviors than those in the outdoor system. We conclude that investigative, social-play and conflict behaviors may be effective indexes of the welfare level of piglets, especially investigative and conflict behaviors.
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Keywords: behavioral indexes of welfare; conflict behavior; investigative behavior; piglets; social-play behavior

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Veterinary Medicine, Azabu University, Sagamihara 2: Kanagawa Prefectural Livestock Industry Technology Center, Ebina, Japan

Publication date: February 1, 2011

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