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Effect of locomotion score on sows’ performances in a feed reward collection test

  • E.-J. Bos (a1) (a2), E. Nalon (a2), D. Maes (a2), B. Ampe (a1), S. Buijs (a1), M. M. J. van Riet (a1) (a3), S. Millet (a1), G. P. J. Janssens (a3) and F. A. M. Tuyttens (a1) (a3)...


Sows housed in groups have to move through their pen to fulfil their behavioural and physiological needs such as feeding and resting. In addition to causing pain and discomfort, lameness may restrict the ability of sows to fulfil such needs. The aim of our study was to investigate the extent to which the mobility of sows is affected by different degrees of lameness. Mobility was measured as the sow’s willingness or capability to cover distances. Feed-restricted hybrid sows with different gait scores were subjected to a feed reward collection test in which they had to walk distances to obtain subsequent rewards. In all, 29 group-housed sows at similar gestation stage (day 96.6±7 s.d.) were visually recorded for gait and classified as non-lame, mildly lame, moderately lame or severely lame. All sows received 2.6 kg of standard commercial gestation feed per day. The test arena consisted of two feeding locations separated from each other by a Y-shaped middle barrier. Feed rewards were presented at the two feeders in turn, using both light and sound cues to signal the availability of a new feed reward. Sows were individually trained during 5 non-consecutive days for 10 min/day with increasing barrier length (range: 0 to 3.5 m) each day. After training, sows were individually tested once per day on 3 non-consecutive days with the maximum barrier length such that they had to cover 9.3 m to walk from one feeder to the other. The outcome variable was the number of rewards collected in a 15-min time span. Non-lame and mildly lame sows obtained more rewards than moderately lame and severely lame sows (P<0.01). However, no significant difference was found between non-lame and mildly lame sows (P=0.69), nor between moderately lame and severely lame sows (P=1.00). This feed reward collection test indicates that both moderately lame and severely lame sows are limited in their combined ability and willingness to walk, but did not reveal an effect of mild lameness on mobility. These findings suggest that moderately and more severely lame sows, but not mildly lame sows, might suffer from reduced access to valuable resources in group housing systems.


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