More Nipple Cup Drinkers to Fewer Pigs on the Day of Weaning Into a Conventional Nursery Results in Reduced Aggression and More Visits to the Drinker

Title: More nipple cup drinkers to fewer pigs on the day of weaning into a conventional nursery results in reduced aggression and more visits to the drinker. Background: Piglets develop their drinking behaviour over the first few days after weaning. Enhancing drinking opportunities for nursery pigs can affect growth, health, welfare, and overall profit. The objectives of this study were to determine how 1, 2, or 3 drinkers per pen affected drinker visit numbers, length of visits at the drinker, and aggressive interactions in the drinker vicinity on placement day for nursery pigs. Methods and Findings: One-hundred and fifty crossbred gilts (21 ± 4 days of age at weaning) weighing 5.38 ± 2.65 Kg were enrolled and assigned to pens by body weight with 25 pigs per pen. Six pens were used with 2 pens per treatment. Each pen contained 1, 2, or 3 stainless steel nipple cup drinkers. Four measures were collected: number and length of visits to the drinker which started each time the individual nursery pig’s head was in the drinker and terminated when the pig’s head moved out of the drinker for a period lasting 5 s or more and number and length of aggressive interactions in the drinker vicinity defined as any fight, bully, head-knock, or chase which occurred in a radius of 0.61 m or less from the edge of the drinker. Total number and length of visits to the nipple cup drinker were greatest for treatment 2 (2 drinkers per pen; 1,894 ± 289 visits and 21,413 ± 6,236 s) and lowest for treatment 1 (1 drinker per pen; 1,129 ± 88 visits and 13,277 ± 1,117). Pigs in treatment pens given 3 drinkers had the lowest total number (676 ± 269 interactions) and the shortest length (4,614 ± 1,912) of aggressive interactions in the vicinity of the drinkers. Conclusion: Offering multiple drinkers provided more frequent and longer water access along with decreased aggression near the water source which could improve nursery pig welfare on placement day.

Author(s): CR Stambuk, LJ Sadler, PR DuBois, RA Edler, JT Holck, CJ Jackson, LA Karriker, KJ Stalder and AK Johnson

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