The level of maternal care experienced by offspring in early life may influence their future behaviour. If maternal behaviour is influenced by the level of mother-young interaction in early life, this may persist in subsequent generations through altered maternal behaviour of female offspring. In the present study, post-farrowing behaviour of gilts and their piglets was observed in a crossover experiment. Gilts were born and reared in a farrowing crate (C) or in a pen with temporary confinement (P); and were observed after they farrowed in a crate or a pen with temporary confinement. Hence there were four experimental groups: CC (born and reared in a crate, farrowed in a crate, N =8), CP (born and reared in a crate, farrowed in a pen, N =6), PC (born and reared in a pen, farrowed in a crate N =5), and PP (born and reared in a pen, farrowed in a pen, N =8). Gilts and their piglets were observed for the first three days post-farrowing whilst they were all confined in crates.
There were no differences between groups for total born, born alive, weaned per litter, or piglet mortality. Gilts in the PP group interacted more with neighbouring gilts/sows than any other (P<0.05). Gilts born and reared in pens touched their piglets more (Pborn =0.02) and vocalised more towards their piglets (Pborn = 0.01) than gilts born and reared in farrowing crates. Piglets born to PP gilts spent more time active in the creep area compared to all other groups (P<0.05). Piglet behaviour was mostly influenced by the day of observation. During the first three days of life piglet inactivity at the udder decreased and piglet inactivity in the creep increased.
The current study demonstrated that the expression of some piglet-directed behaviour was influenced by the system in which a gilt was born and reared.
Kirsty L. Chidgey, Patrick C.H. Morel, Kevin J. Stafford, Ian W. Barugh. The performance and behaviour of gilts and their piglets is influenced by whether they were born and reared in farrowing crates or farrowing pens. Livestock Science. Volume 193, November 2016, Pages 51–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2016.09.011