Abstract

Behavioral Responses of Sows Exposedto Conventional Methods or Precision-Technology to Mitigate Piglet-Crushing

A Precision Animal Management (PAM) toolset (SmartGuard; SwineTech Inc., Cedar Rapids, IA, USA) was developed to intervene piglet-crushing events using a Vibration followed by Electrical Impulse (VIB+EI). The objective was to evaluate sow startle, coping, and nursing responses to three crushing-mitigation stimuli: Vibration-only (VIB; n=16), VIB+EI (n=18), or Conventional-methods (CONV; 3 hand slaps; n=18). Sows were exposed to a piglet distress call and the ensuing impulse for 6 sessions on d 1-4, relative to farrowing. Startle-response measures included Heart Rate (HR), cortisol secretion, and behaviors from live observation. Sows were fitted with HR-monitors before each session on days 1-4. Cortisol from ear-vein blood (100 µL) was measured before sessions-1 and-6, and after sessions-2 and-6. A novel startle-index was calculated from live observations during sessions (0=silent, lie; 100=jump, bite sow) and expressed as a percent. Coping and nursing behaviors were quantified from video collected after each session, and after ear-vein blood was collected on d 5, 7, and 9, relative to farrowing. Circadian cortisol was measured using AM and PM ear-vein blood samples for d 0-4, 5, 7, and 9, relative to farrowing. A large proportion of live observations indicated that CONV-sows only sat upright after stimuli. In contrast, most VIB+EI-sows stood-up completely (χ2=207.14; N=312; p<0.01), although many jumped to the upright position (χ2=44.9; N=216; p < 0.01). Both CONV-and VIB+EI sows vocalized (χ2=199.19; N=312; p<0.01), but biting was a rare occurrence. The VIB-sows had the lowest startle-index, with minimal disturbance during sessions. The CONV-and VIB+EI-sows displayed a 31 and 50% startle index, respectively (± 2.1 SEM; p<0.01). There were minimal differences in HR or cortisol measures among treatments (p>0.10). After sessions, VIB+EI-sows had greater oral behaviors and standing durations, than CONV-and VIB-sows (p<0.05). The CONV-and VIB+EI-sows had similar nursing and standing behaviors, which were less than VIB-sows (p<0.05). Cortisol measures and coping- and nursing-behaviour differences were not observed on d 5, 7, or 9 (p>0.10). These results indicated that if PAM-technology should replace conventional methods, producers are not likely to observe long-term effects on sow behaviors. The results from this experiment were used to adjust the stimuli settings for the PAM-technology on commercial sow operations to reduce jumping.


Author(s): JM Mumm, EM Bortoluzzi, LA Ruiz, MJ Goering, MJ Coffin, DT Medin, R Mazloom, M Jaberi-Douraki, MS Rooda and LE Hulbert1*

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