Observations of piglet-directed behavior patterns and skin lesions in eleven commercial swine herds

T. M. Widowski, PhD; T. Cottrell, BVMS, MSc; C.E. Dewey, DVM, PhD; R.M. Friendship, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ABVP

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Objectives: To determine the frequencies of piglet-directed behavior performed by weaned piglets in 11 commercial herds during relatively short videotaped observations, and to test the relationships among frequency of observed behavior, injury scores, and biosecurity scores.

Materials and methods: Behavior and skin lesion scores (Mild, Moderate, or Severe) were sampled during a single visit to each of 11 commercial swine herds. The frequencies of belly nosing, nosing or chewing on ears and tails, and aggression were sampled from 2-hour video recordings of the pigs. For each herd, a biosecurity score was compiled from information regarding isolation from other herds as well as general on-farm hygiene practices according to the Ontario Swine Health Improvement Plan.

Results: All three recorded behavior patterns were observed in each herd, but frequencies varied across herds. Belly nosing was observed most often, and its frequency was negatively correlated with average weaning age. Aggression had the lowest frequency among the three behaviors, but was positively correlated with nosing or chewing on the ears or tails of other pigs. Skin scores were not significantly correlated with frequencies of behavior or weaning age. However, the proportion of pigs with Moderate and Severe lesions on the ears and abdomen decreased as the biosecurity score for the herd improved.

Implications: Frequencies of belly nosing in commercial herds were negatively correlated with weaning age. However, belly nosing was also observed at a relatively high frequency in one herd with later weaned piglets, suggesting that other factors may influence this behavior.

Keywords: nursery, behavior, lesions

RIS citationCite as: Widowski TM, Cottrell T, Dewey CE, et al. Observations of piglet-directed behavior patterns and skin lesions in eleven commercial swine herds. J Swine Health Prod 2003;11(4):181-185.

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