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Relation between parity and feed intake, fear of humans and social behaviour in non-lactating sows group-housed under various on-farm conditions

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The number of group-housed, non-lactating sows is increasing rapidly in Europe. However, systematic information of the between-sow variation in animal welfare related factors under various on-farm conditions is lacking. Indicators of feed intake, fear of humans and social behaviour in non-lactating, group-housed sows were monitored in 14 herds. Regarding indicators of feed intake, the results revealed that back fat gain increased with increased parity number to a larger extent in group feeding than in individual feeding systems. Furthermore, behavioural observations showed that sows older than third parity spent significantly more time eating than younger sows during feeding in group feeding systems. With respect to indicators of social behaviour, first parity sows had significantly more skin lesions than older sows in herds with no escape possibilities (small group sizes and no feeding stalls), whereas second and third parity sows had the highest number of skin injuries in herds with escape possibilities. The results emphasise a need for management initiatives to consider the requirements of especially young sows in group housing. This is of particular importance in systems with small group sizes and group feeding systems.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2007

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