Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-30T01:46:00.529Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Effects of food level on performance and behaviour of sows in a dynamic group-housing system with electronic feeding

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2010

H. A. M. Spoolder
ADAS Terrington, Terrington St Clement, King's Lynn PE34 4PW Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Rood, Edinburgh EH9 3JG
J. A. Burbidge
ADAS Terrington, Terrington St Clement, King's Lynn PE34 4PW Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Rood, Edinburgh EH9 3JG
S. A. Edwards
Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Rood, Edinburgh EH9 3JG
A. B. Lawrence
Scottish Agricultural College, West Mains Rood, Edinburgh EH9 3JG
P. H. Simmins
ADAS Terrington, Terrington St Clement, King's Lynn PE34 4PW
Get access


Evidence from studies of group-housed sows in unbedded systems indicates that hunger may be a cause of increased aggression between animals. The present study aimed to investigate the effects of food level on performance, aggression and skin damage in a deep-straw system. Sixteen groups offive gilts were introduced over 8 months to one of two dynamic groups in a deep-straw yard (2·35 m2 per sow) receiving different food levels from an electronic sow-feeding system: high (H: 3·0 kg and 38 MJ/day) and low (L: 1·6 kg and 20 MJ/day). Seventy second-parity sows were returned to the same treatments in the same subgroups. The behaviour of the animals was recorded throughout both pregnancies using a time sampling technique. Severity of skin damage was recorded as a number from 0 to 4 for each of nine areas, the average of which being the ‘damage score’. The total number of animals in each dynamic group was maintained at around 30, through the use of additional sows. As expected, H sows were heavier than L sows but no effect offood treatment was found on litter size or performance. L sows were more active (L v. H; standing: 41 v. 31% of total observation time respectively, F114 = 7·65, P < 0·05) and showed more straw manipulation than H sows (L v. H: 17 v. 10% respectively, F 3 34 = 18·4, P < 0·001). No differences between treatments were found either in number of aggressive interactions (L v. H: 3·6 v. 3·8 interactions per sow per observation day, F, u = 0·82, P > 0·05), or in damage score (L v. H: 0·24 v. 0·28; Flu = 0·27; P > 0·05).

However, introduction of new animals did influence aggression, with sows being more involved in aggressive interactions on the day they were introduced, than on other sow's introduction days and on no introduction days (Tukey, P < 0·05). Average skin lesions per experimental sow were also higher in the days immediately following introduction. It can be concluded that in a sequential feeding system with plentiful straw, aggression is not influenced by the level offeeding. In these systems, the major factor giving rise to aggression is the introduction of new sows to the resident group.

Research Article
Copyright © British Society of Animal Science 1997

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Agricultural and Food Research Council. 1990. Technical Committee on Responses to Nutrients. Report no. 4. Nutrient requirements of sows and boars. Nutrition Abstracts and Revieivs, Series B 60: 383406.Google Scholar
Agricultural Research Council. 1981. The nutrient requirement of pigs. Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, Slough, UK.Google Scholar
Arey, D. S. 1993. The effect of bedding on the behaviour and welfare of pigs. Animal Welfare 2: 235246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bokma, S. and Kersjes, G. J. K. 1988. The introduction of pregnant sows in an established group. Proceedings of the international congress on applied ethology in farm animals, Skara, pp. 166169.Google Scholar
Brouns, F. and Edwards, S. A. 1992. Future prospects for housing of non-lactating sows. Pig News and Information 13: 47N50N.Google Scholar
Brouns, F. and Edwards, S. A. 1994. Social rank and feeding behaviour of group-housed sows fed competitively or ad libitum. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 39: 225235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Buré, R. G. 1991. The influence of additional roughage in an electronic sow feeder on vulva biting. Forty-second annual meeting of the European Association of Animal Production, Berlin, vol. 2, pp. 369.Google Scholar
Burfoot, A., Kay, R. M. and Simmins, P. H. 1994. Level of skin damage in sows when mixed in groups in early pregnancy. Animal Production 58:438 (abstr.).Google Scholar
Dantzer, R., Arnone, M. and Mormede, P. 1980. Effects of frustration on behaviour and plasma corticosteroid levels in pigs. Physiology and Behavior 24:14.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Deag, J. M. 1990. Keybehaviour — a program for recording data on an Atari Portfolio Computer. Copyright John M. Deag, 10 Fletcher Grove, Penicuik EH26 OJT, UK.Google Scholar
Dingemans, E. C. F. M., Bure, R. G. and Putten, G. van. 1993. [The influence of rearing conditions on social behaviour of sows in groups.] IMAG-DLO report 93-21. IMAG, Wageningen, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
Duncan, I. H. J. and Wood-Gush, D. G. M. 1971. Frustration and aggression in the domestic fowl. Animal Behaviour 19: 500504.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Fraser, D. 1975. The effect of straw on the behaviour of sows in tether stalls. Animal Production 21: 5968.Google Scholar
Gatel, F., Castaing, J. and Lucbert, J. 1987. Changes in productivity and culling rate according to pregnancy feed intake and litter parity. Livestock Production Science 17:247261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Genstat 5 Committee. 1987. Gcnstat 5 reference manual. Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
Hard, D. L. and Anderson, L. L. 1979. Maternal starvation and progesterone secretion, litter size and growth in the pig. American Journal of Physiology 273: E273–E278.Google Scholar
Hunter, E. J., Broom, D. M., Edwards, S. A. and Sibly, R. M. 1988. Social hierarchy and feeder access in a group of 20 sows using a computer-controlled feeder. Animal Production 47:139148.Google Scholar
Jensen, P. 1982/1983. An analysis of agonistic interaction patterns in group-housed dry sows — aggression regulation through an “avoidance order”. Applied Animal Ethology 9: 4761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jensen, P. 1988. Diurnal rhythm of bar-biting in relation to other behaviour in pregnant sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 21: 337346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kirkwood, R. N., Mitaru, B. N., Gooneratne, A. D., Blair, R. and Thacker, P. A. 1988. The influence of dietary energy intake during successive lactations on sow prolificacy. Canadian Journal ofAnimal Science 68: 283290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lawrence, A. B. and Illius, A. W. 1988. Measuring hunger in the pig using operant conditioning: the effect of food restriction. Animal Production 47:131137.Google Scholar
Martin, P. R. and Bateson, P. P. G. 1993. Measuring behaviour. Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. 1993. Prediction of the energy value of compoundfeeding animals. MAFF publication no. 1285. MAFF, London.Google Scholar
Minitab Incorporated. 1993. Minitab reference manual Sowers Printing Company, Lebanon, PA.Google Scholar
Moore, A. S., Gonyou, H. W. and Ghent, A. W. 1993. Integration of newly introduced and resident sows following grouping. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 38:257267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Putten, G. van and Burgwal, J. A. van de. 1990. Vulva biting in group-housed sows: preliminary report. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 26: 181186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ritter, E. and Weber, R. 1989. [Social rank order of sows and occupation of the feeder station with two different types of computerised feeding systems.] KTBL-schrift 336: 132141.Google Scholar
Rushen, J. P. 1985. Stereotypies, aggression and the feeding schedules of tethered sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 14:137147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spoolder, H. A. M., Burbidge, J. A., Edwards, S. A., Lawrence, A. B. and Simmins, P. H. 1996a. Social recognition in gilts mixed into a dynamic group of 30 sows. Animal Science 62: 630 (abstr.).Google Scholar
Spoolder, H. A. M., Burbidge, J. A., Edwards, S. A., Simmins, P. H. and Lawrence, A. B. 1996b. Effects of food level and straw bedding during pregnancy on sow performance and responses to an ACTH challenge. Livestock Production Science 47: 5157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Spoolder, H. A. M., Burbidge, J. A., Lawrence, A. B., Simmins, P. H. and Edwards, S. A. 1995. Provision of straw as a foraging substrate reduces the development of excessive chain and bar manipulation in food restricted sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 43: 249262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Svendsen, J., Andersson, M., Olsson, A. C., Rantzen, D. and Lundqvist, P. 1990. [Group housing of sows in gestation in insulated and uninsulated buildings.] Report no. 66 of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.Google Scholar
Terlouw, E. M. C., Lawrence, A. B. and Illius, A. W. 1991. Influences of feeding level and physical restriction on development of stereotypies in sows. Animal Behaviour 42: 981991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Thompson, T. and Bloom, W. 1966. Aggressive behaviour and extinction-induced response rate increase. Psychonomic Science 5: 335336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Verstegen, M. W. A., Verhagen, J. M. F. and Hartog, L. A. den. 1987. Energy requirements of pigs during pregnancy: a review. Livestock Production Science 16: 7589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weber, R., Friedli, K., Troxler, J. and Winterling, Ch. 1993. The influence of computerized individual feeding system on the behaviour of sows. In Livestock environment IV (ed. Collins, E. and Boon, C.), pp. 495501. St Joseph, Michigan, USA.Google Scholar
Wiepkema, P. R. 1971. Positive feedbacks at work during feeding. Behaviour 39: 266273.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Yang, H., Eastham, P. R., Phillips, P. and Whittemore, C. T. 1989. Reproductive performance, body weight and body condition of breeding sows with differing body fatness at parturition, differing nutrition during lactation, and differing litter size. Animal Production 48:181201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar