Pigs stress management through feeding
Stress-related issues in pig farming
Pigs are social animals that naturally live in groups. In any group, its natural behaviour is to establish a hierarchy with its fellow pigs, to define the place of each one, leader, dominant, dominated,… Confrontations, postures establish the place of each one. In breeding, it behaves in the same way. During the grouping of pregnant sows, during the grouping of piglets at weaning or even before leaving for the slaughterhouse, pigs are brought together. They will naturally seek to establish a new hierarchy.
Interactions between pigs are normal and even necessary. Posturing, aggression and fighting are inevitable, but the farmer’s role is to protect the animals from harmful consequences, such as injuries, fractures and abortions. The type of relationship between the farmer and the pigs also influences their behaviour.
The conditions under which the pigs are kept can help controlling these behaviours. For example, the design of large sow pens with sleeping and escape areas allows sows to interact with each other and the dominated ones to protect themselves. The provision of a variety of toys also greatly assists pigs in expressing their aggression and frustrations. Spending some time in the pens with the animals also helps to calm them down.
Unfortunately, there are times when this is not enough and intervention is needed to protect the animals. Occasionally this may mean isolating a particularly aggressive animal, or one that is suffering too much. In most cases, however, it is not a matter of preventing any interaction but of controlling the consequences and attenuating the reactions.