Reproductive traits in gilts housed individually or in groups during the first thirty days of gestation

Mark J. Estienne, MS, PhD; Allen F. Harper, MS, PhD; James W. Knight, MS, PhD

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Objectives: To compare pregnancy rate and number of embryos 30 days post mating in gilts group-housed in pens of three and gilts housed individually in gestation stalls. Other potential indicators of swine welfare examined included body weight, backfat thickness, lesions, lameness, display of stereotypies, and serum cortisol concentrations.

Methods: After artificial insemination, Yorkshire × Landrace gilts were placed in gestation stalls (n = 14) or pens of three gilts each (n = 14 pens, 42 gilts) until 30 days post mating. Measures of welfare and performance assessed before mating and days 1, 3, 7, 14, and 28 post mating were compared between treatment groups. Gilts were euthanized and reproductive tracts were examined on day 30.

Results: Group-housed gilts gained more body weight than gilts housed in stalls, but backfat thickness was similar between treatments. The proportion of gilts exhibiting stereotypies on day 28 was not affected by treatment. Lesion scores (0 to 5; 5 = severe) were higher for group-housed gilts and were highest during the first 7 days post mating.

On day 30, lameness scores (0 to 5; 5 = severe) were higher in group-housed gilts, and serum cortisol concentration was higher in stall-housed gilts. Pregnancy rate on day 30 was lower for group-housed gilts. The numbers of ovulations and embryos, embryo weight, and crown-rump length were similar between groups.

Implications: Indicators of welfare were differentially affected by type of gestation housing, and pregnancy rate was higher in gilts housed individually in stalls.

Keywords: gestation, housing, gilt

RIS citationCite as: Estienne MJ, Harper AF, Knight JW. Reproductive traits in gilts housed individually or in groups during the first thirty days of gestation. J Swine Health Prod 2006;14(5):241-246.

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