• Factors Influencing Farmer Willingness to Reduce Aggression between Pigs

      Peden, Rachel; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon; Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) (MDPI AG, 2018-12-22)
      Aggression between pigs remains an important animal welfare issue despite several solutions existing. Uptake of livestock welfare research relies on various stakeholders being willing to recommend or adopt changes to farm structure or management (e.g., veterinarians, researchers, farmers). This survey provides insight into the attitudes and practices of 122 UK and Irish pig farmers regarding aggression between growing pigs. Our aim was to understand why mitigation strategies are not adequately implemented. The majority of farmers mixed pigs at least once during production and had tried at least one mitigation strategy in the past. Farmers expressed limited willingness to implement strategies in the future, and a structural equation model revealed that this was directly influenced by their beliefs about the outcome of controlling aggression, and their perception of their ability to implement the necessary changes. Willingness was indirectly influenced by their perceptions of aggression as a problem and views of relevant stakeholder groups. Veterinarians had the greatest impact on farmer behavior. We recommend that researchers test research findings in practice, calculate cost-benefits of implementation, and transfer knowledge through various sources. This study showed that structural equation modeling is a valuable tool to understand farmer behavior regarding specific and entrenched animal welfare issues.
    • Intra-Group Lethal Gang Aggression in Domestic Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus)

      Camerlink, Irene; Chou, Jen-Yun; Turner, Simon P.; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Scottish Government Strategic Research (MDPI AG, 2020-07-28)
      Intraspecific coalitional aggression is rare among all species, especially within stable social groups. We report here numerous cases of intraspecific lethal gang aggression within stable groups of domestic pigs. The objective was to describe this extreme aggression and to identify potential causes. Management data were collected from farms with (n = 23) and without (n = 19) gang aggression. From one farm, 91 victims were assessed for skin injuries and body condition score. Lethal gang aggression was significantly associated with deep straw bedding, which may be related to various other factors. Gang aggression tended to occur more in winter, and was unrelated to genetic line, breeding company, group size or feed type. It occurred equally in female-only and mixed sex groups (male-only groups were not represented), from around eight weeks of age. Injuries typically covered the whole body and were more severe on the front of the body. Victims who survived had a lower body condition score and fewer injuries than victims found dead. There are still many unknowns as to why this abnormal social behaviour occurs and it deserves further research attention, both for its applied relevance to animal welfare as for the evolutionary background of lethal gang aggression.
    • Multi-Step Tail Biting Outbreak Intervention Protocols for Pigs Housed on Slatted Floors.

      Chou, Jen-Yun; O'Driscoll, Keelin; D'Eath, Rick B; Sandercock, Dale A; Camerlink, Irene; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural & Environmental Science & Analytical Services, Scotland (MDPI, 2019-08-20)
      Solutions are needed to keep pigs under commercial conditions without tail biting outbreaks (TBOs). However, as TBOs are inevitable, even in well managed farms, it is crucial to know how to manage TBOs when they occur. We evaluated the effectiveness of multi-step intervention protocols to control TBOs. Across 96 pens (1248 undocked pigs) managed on fully-slatted floors, 40 TBOs were recorded ( 3 out of 12–14 pigs with fresh tail wounds). When an outbreak was identified, either the biters or the victims were removed, or enrichment (three ropes) was added. If the intervention failed, another intervention was randomly used until all three interventions had been deployed once. Fifty percent of TBOs were controlled after one intervention, 30% after 2–3 interventions, and 20% remained uncontrolled. A high proportion of biters/victims per pen reduced intervention success more so than the type of intervention. When only one intervention was used, adding ropes was the fastest method to overcome TBOs. Removed biters and victims were successfully reintroduced within 14 days back to their home pens. In conclusion, 80% of TBOs were successfully controlled within 18.4 1.7 days on average using one or multiple cost-effective intervention strategies.
    • Pig farmers’ willingness to pay for management strategies to reduce aggression between pigs

      Peden, Rachel S. E.; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon P.; Scotland’s Rural College (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-11-08)
      When deciding whether to invest in an improvement to animal welfare, farmers must trade-off the relative costs and benefits. Despite the existence of effective solutions to many animal welfare issues, farmers’ willingness to pay for them is largely unknown. This study modelled pig farmers’ decisions to improve animal welfare using a discrete choice experiment focused on alleviating aggression between growing/finishing pigs at regrouping. Eighty-two UK and Irish pig farm owners and managers were asked to choose between hypothetical aggression control strategies described in terms of four attributes; installation cost, on-going cost, impact on skin lesions from aggression and impact on growth rate. If they did not like any of the strategies they could opt to keep their current farm practice. Systematic variations in product attributes allowed farmers’ preferences and willingness to pay to be estimated and latent class modelling accounted for heterogeneity in responses. The overall willingness to pay to reduce lesions was low at £0.06 per pig place (installation cost) and £0.01 per pig produced (running cost) for each 1% reduction in lesions. Results revealed three independent classes of farmers. Farmers in Class 1 were unlikely to regroup unfamiliar growing/finishing pigs, and thus were unwilling to adopt measures to reduce aggression at regrouping. Farmers in Classes 2 and 3 were willing to adopt measures providing certain pre-conditions were met. Farmers in Class 2 were motivated mainly by business goals, whilst farmers in Class 3 were motivated by both business and animal welfare goals, and were willing to pay the most to reduce aggression; £0.11 per pig place and £0.03 per pig produced for each 1% reduction in lesions. Farmers should not be considered a homogeneous group regarding the adoption of animal welfare innovations. Instead, campaigns should be targeted at subgroups according to their independent preferences and willingness to pay.
    • The translation of animal welfare research into practice: The case of mixing aggression between pigs

      Peden, Rachel S.E.; Turner, Simon; Boyle, Laura; Camerlink, Irene; Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) (Elsevier, 2018-03-10)
      Aggression between unfamiliar pigs at mixing is a major animal welfare problem in commercial farming. It has been studied since the 1970s and remains an important topic in animal welfare research. Methods to reduce pig aggression at mixing have been reviewed previously, but there has been little translation of the advocated techniques and building designs into practice. As a result, the problem persists on many commercial units. A similar situation exists for many other animal welfare issues. This article takes a new approach in not only reviewing the recent scientific literature, but also reviewing the evidence of uptake in industry. Firstly, the current state of aggression mitigation research is reviewed; including the most successful recent developments in breeding against aggression, early life socialisation, the use of pheromones and nutrition. Secondly, information is extracted from both peer reviewed and industry literature to establish the extent to which these strategies have been transferred from research to practice. Finally, we discuss why in spite of the amount of research on reducing aggression at mixing the problem has not reduced in intensive farming systems. The limited uptake in practice appears to be due to low prioritisation of the problem, the practicalities of implementation, lack of information on cost-effectiveness and ineffective communication of research to the farming community. To bridge this gap, industry must be involved in the design of practical solutions and the cost-effectiveness of these must be quantified. This approach should also be considered for other animal welfare issues under investigation. We recommend a better alignment between research questions and industry interests to increase the success of research efforts to improve animal welfare in practice.