Post-Weaning, Early Gestation Sows: Housing and Welfare
Increasingly, consumers are expressing concern for the welfare of breeding sows in our food systems and are influencing markets rapidly through both their buying and voting choices. As producers necessarily begin to shift towards decreased breeding sow housing confinement, there is a need for nuanced information about the welfare impacts of different housing types. In particular, there is limited research on the behavioral and psychological welfare of post-weaning, early gestations sows in relation to their housing condition. The goal of this study was to observe and compare the behavior of post-weaning, early gestation sows housed in three different housing types: gestation stalls, individual Proposition 12 compliant pens and groups. We hypothesized that post-weaning, early gestation sows housed in groups will exhibit fewer behaviors related to negative welfare than those housed individually. We coded fourteen sow behaviors from day zero post weaning until day seven post weaning. Included in the study were fifty-three subjects in five batches. Each sow was recorded using scan sampling and instantaneous recording on day one, three, four and seven post-weaning every 5 minutes between 6 AM and 8 AM, 10:30 AM and 12 PM and 2:30 PM and 8 PM. Based on our data we concluded that our hypothesis was supported, with sows housed in groups displaying increased aggressive behaviors and sows housed individually displaying less nosing another pig or being nosed, less movement and more sham chewing.