A stressful environment for sows during gestation can increase piglet mortality. The present study aimed to investigate a strategy of environment and diet enrichment to reduce maternal stress and its consequences on piglet mortality. Three treatments during gestation were compared: a conventional system on a slatted floor (C), the same conventional system with environment and diet enrichment (CE), and a system on deep litter and with additional space per sow (L). The enrichment of the CE group consisted of pieces of oak attached to a chain (three per pen) and straw pellets provided in the trough at a rate of 200 g/d from 3-30 days of gestation and 400 g/d from 31-104 days. At 105 days of gestation, all sows were transferred into farrowing pens and housed in identical individual stalls on a slatted floor. In total, 83 Landrace x Large White sows were studied (C: 26, CE: 30, L: 27).
Cortisol concentration in sow saliva differed amongst groups but differently according to day of gestation (C=CE>L, C>CE>L and C=CE=L at 14, 105 and 107 days, respectively). At 101 days of gestation, the enrichment reduced sow stereotypies (L<CE<C; P < 0.05) and increased behaviour of investigation (L>CE>C; P < 0.05). Piglet mortality during and within 12 h of birth was lower in groups CE and L (6.6% and 6.3%, respectively) than in group C (11.1% P < 0.05), but overall mortality (from birth to weaning) did not differ among the 3 groups (23.2, 19.1 and 19.3% in groups C, CE, and L, respectively, P = 0.35).
Enriching the sow environment and diet during gestation therefore improved sow welfare and reduced piglet mortality at and soon after birth.
Hélène Quesnel, Benoit Peuteman, Elodie Merlot, Armelle Prunier, Catherine Calvar, Fabrice Robert, Marie-Christine Meunier-Salaün (2018) Effet de l’enrichissement du milieu des truies pendant la gestation sur le stress maternel et la survie des porcelets. Journées de la Recherche Porcine, 50.