The effect of group composition and mineral supplementation during rearing on the behavior and welfare of replacement gilts
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CitationPhoebe Hartnett, Laura Boyle, Keelin O'Driscoll, The effect of group composition and mineral supplementation during rearing on the behavior and welfare of replacement gilts, Translational Animal Science, Volume 4, Issue 2, April 2020, Pages 1038–1050, https://doi.org/10.1093/tas/txaa002
AbstractSow longevity supported by good health and reproductive performance is necessary to optimize sow lifetime performance. In some countries, replacement gilts are reared with finisher pigs destined for slaughter, so they are exposed to sexual and aggressive behaviors performed by males. This is associated with stress and injury. Moreover, diets formulated for finishers are not designed to meet the needs of replacement gilts and may not supply the necessary minerals to promote limb health, optimal reproduction, and, thus, sow longevity. In this 2 × 2 factorial design experiment with 384 animals (32 pens [12 animals per pen]), we investigated the effect of female-only (FEM) or mixed-sex (MIX) rearing, with (SUPP) or without (CON) supplementary minerals (copper, zinc, and manganese) on locomotion, salivary cortisol levels, behavior, body lesions (BL), and hoof health of gilts. The experimental period began at transfer to the finisher stage (day 81.3 ± 0.5 of age; day 0) until breeding age (day 196 ± 0.5 of age; day 115). Locomotion was scored (0–5) biweekly from day 0 until slaughter day 67 or breeding age day 115 for the remaining gilts. Saliva samples were taken monthly from four focal gilts per pen. All counts of aggressive, harmful, sexual, and play behavior were recorded by direct observation 1 d biweekly (5- × 5-min observations/pen/d). BL scores were recorded on focal pigs biweekly from day 1 until day 99 on the back, neck, shoulder, flank, and hind quarter on each side of the body. Hind hooves were scored for eight disorders (heel erosion [HE], heel sole separation [HSS], and white line separation [WLS], dew claw length and dew claw cracks, toe length and both vertical and horizontal toe cracks) by severity, and a total hoof lesion score was calculated by summing individual scores. General linear mixed models were used to analyze cortisol, behavior, BL, and total hoof scores. Generalized linear mixed models were used for locomotion, bursitis and individual hoof disorders. There was less aggression (P < 0.05) and sexual behavior in the FEM compared to the MIX groups with more play behavior in MIX compared to FEM groups (P < 0.01). Gilts in the MIX groups had higher BL scores than gilts in the FEM groups (P < 0.001). Total hoof scores were higher in MIX (8.01 ± 0.15) than FEM (7.70 ± 0.12; P < 0.02) gilts. CON diet gilts had higher HE scores than SUPP gilts (P < 0.05). HSS (P < 0.05) and WLS (P < 0.05) scores were higher in MIX than FEM gilts. Rearing gilts in FEM groups had benefits for hoof health likely mediated through lower levels of activity due to male absence, and minerals helped reduce HE.
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