University of Limerick
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Rearing in female-only groups and dietary mineral supplementation improves sow welfare in the early parities and lifetime performance

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-02-15, 14:48 authored by Phoebe Hartnett, Laura A. Boyle, Keelin O'Driscoll
The lifetime performance of commercial sows relies on longevity, which is dependent on good health and reproductive performance. However, there is a high rate of wastage of sows in the early parities, which is influenced by the way they are managed and housed during rearing. This study investigated the carry-over effect of gilt rearing strategy on the measures of welfare and performance. Eighty sows were reared using a two by two factorial design: rearing group composition [GC; female-only (FEM) or mixed-sex (MIX) from weaning] with or without supplementary minerals (CON = control diet; SUPP = control + Cu, Zn, and Mn) from 5 wk into the finisher stage. Once served, gilts were managed in a dynamic group gestation pen and fed a standard gestating sow diet. Locomotory ability was scored (0 to 5) and salivary cortisol measured five times during the first gestation, and human approach tests were carried out on day 108. Hooves were scored for injuries and legs for bursas at day 70 of the first gestation, at first weaning, and at the second farrowing. Sow behavior in the hoof scoring crate (movement, vocalization, and handling ease) was also recorded. The number of piglets born alive and dead during the first five parities was recorded as was the performance of the first litter to finish. Data were analyzed using general or generalized linear mixed models, as appropriate, using SAS (v 9.4). There was no effect (P > 0.05) of rearing treatment on locomotory ability, bursa score, the total number of piglets born, or on offspring growth. However, there was an interaction between GC and supplementary minerals (P < 0.05) on salivary cortisol levels with MIX × SUPP sows having the highest levels. Total hoof scores and heel erosion scores were higher in sows reared in MIX groups (P < 0.01), and CON sows tended to have higher horizontal crack scores (P = 0.06). Sows from MIX kicked more at weaning than FEM (P < 0.05) and tended to be more fearful in the forced human approach test (P = 0.1) where they are scored on their reaction to being approached. They also had more stillborn piglets across all five parities than FEM (P < 0.05). Overall, rearing replacement sows in FEM groups and dietary mineral supplementation had minimal but beneficial effects on their subsequent welfare and performance.



Translational Animal Science;


Oxford University Press





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