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Dahlenburg, Germany

Tonepohl B.,University of Gottingen | Appel A.K.,University of Gottingen | Voss B.,BHZP GmbH | Konig von Borstel U.,University of Gottingen | Gauly M.,University of Gottingen
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2013

Group housing of pigs leads inevitably to more or less serious agonistic interactions during the establishment of the social rank order of the group. In order to reduce the number of severe agonistic interactions and thus the negative effects on well-being and performance, the use of genetic selection of calm sows maybe a possible strategy. Therefore, in this study the behaviour of 112 German Landrace sows was observed after the animals were brought together in a group of 10-20 sows. After this initial period, the sows were integrated into a large dynamic group in the dry sow area where the animals were housed for 71 days. Before moving the sows into the farrowing area, skin lesions scores for three body regions (front/middle/rear) on both sides were recorded using a scoring system from 1 (no lesions) to 4 (wounds, lesions all over the body area). After farrowing, sows' reaction towards the separation from their litter was recorded to analyse relationships between aggressiveness and handling. Earlier research suggests that skin lesions recorded shortly after mixing are associated with agonistic interactions at mixing and might therefore be a useful indicator for the evaluation of recent aggressiveness of animals. However, results of the present study show that an individuals' frequency of being initiator of agonistic interactions post mixing do not affect (p>0.1) the extent of skin lesion recorded 10 weeks later. Conversely, animals being attacked frequently were evaluated with higher scores in the anterior region (p=0.0435). These findings indicate that a higher skin lesion score does not represent generally more aggressive sows under commercial housing systems, but it is still an indicator for overall aggressiveness within pens or groups. Between the different groups significant differences in the extent of skin lesions were found (e.g. skin lesion score front: p=0.0228). A negative relationship was found between skin lesion score in caudal region and sows' reaction towards stockperson when handling their piglets (r=-0.28, p<0.01). Furthermore, behaviour traits related to aggressiveness correlated with later reproductive performance. While sows recorded frequently as aggressors post mixing gave birth to more total and live born piglets, sows with higher skin lesion scores had a lower reproductive performance (e.g. skin lesion score front vs. total born piglets: r=-0.28, p<0.01). Taken together, these results suggest that more severe skin lesions are indicative of low-ranking and less vital sows, but skin lesions are not useful to identify the generally more aggressive individuals. © 2013 Elsevier B.V. Source


Appel A.K.,University of Gottingen | Voss B.,BHZP GmbH | Tonepohl B.,University of Gottingen | von Borstel U.K.,University of Gottingen | Gauly M.,University of Gottingen
Journal of Animal Science | Year: 2013

Mixing of unfamiliar pigs is a standard management procedure in commercial pig production and is often associated with a period of intense and physically damaging aggression. Aggression is considered a problem for animal welfare and production. The objective of the present paper was to investigate the genetic background of aggressive behavior traits at mixing of unfamiliar gilts under 2 different housing conditions. Therefore, a total of 543 purebred Pietrain gilts, from 2 nucleus farms (farm A: n = 302; farm B: n = 241) of 1 breeding company, were tested at an average age of 214 d (SD 12.2 d) for aggressive behavior by 1 observer. Observations included the frequencies of aggressive attack and reciprocal fighting during mixing with unfamiliar gilts. On farm A 41% of the gilts were purebred Pietrains, whereas 59% were purebred Landrace or Duroc gilts. On the farm B 42% of the gilts were purebred Pietrains, and 58% purebred Large White gilts. The average size of the newly mixed groups of gilts was 28 animals on farm A and 18 animals on farm B. The Pietrain gilts from the 2 herds were genetically closely linked. They were the offspring of 96 sires, with 64% of these sires having tested progeny in both farms. There were clear differences in the housing of the animals between the 2 farms. The test pen on farm A had a solid concrete floor littered with wooden shavings and was equipped with a dry feeder. On farm B there was a partly slatted floor, and the gilts were fed by an electronic sow feeder. Mean space allowance was 2.6 m2/gilt on farm A and 3.9 m2/gilt on farm B. Although large interindividual differences existed, gilts from farm B performed numerically more aggressive attack (mean 1.12, SD 1.42 vs. mean 0.71, SD 1.20) and reciprocal fighting (mean 0.78, SD 0.98 vs. mean 0.44, SD 0.82) when compared with gilts from farm A. The heritabilities and additive genetic variances for behavioral traits were estimated with a linear animal model and were on a low level in farm A (h2 = 0.11, SE = 0.07, and σ2a = 0.12 for aggressive attack and h2 = 0.04, SE = 0.07, and σ2a = 0.02 for reciprocal fighting) and on a moderate level in farm B (h2 = 0.29, SE = 0.13, and σ2a = 0.44 for aggressive attack and h2 = 0.33, SE = 0.12, and σ2a = 0.27 for reciprocal fighting). For both aggressive attack and reciprocal fighting, genetic correlation of the same trait between farm A and farm B was 1.0. Therefore, aggressive behavior does not seem to be influenced by genotype × environment interactions. Under these circumstances aggressions in group housing can be reduced by genetic selection against aggressive behavior. Therewith, the welfare and health of sows will ultimately increase. © 2013 American Society of Animal Science. © 2013 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved. Source


Appel A.K.,University of Gottingen | Appel A.K.,BHZP GmbH | Voss B.,BHZP GmbH | Tonepohl B.,University of Gottingen | And 2 more authors.
Animal | Year: 2016

The present study examined the possibilities and consequences of selecting pigs for reduced aggression and desirable maternal behaviour. Data were recorded from 798 purebred Large White gilts, with an age of 217±17.7 (mean±SD) days, which were observed at mixing with unfamiliar conspecifics. The reaction of the sows towards separation from their litter was assessed for 2022 litters from 848 Large White sows. Sows’ performance during their time in the farrowing unit was scored based on the traits farrowing behaviour (i.e. need of birth assistance), rearing performance (i.e. litter quality at day 10 postpartum (pp)), usability (i.e. additional labour input during lactation period e.g. for treatments) and udder quality of the sow (i.e. udder attachment). For agonistic behaviour, traits heritabilities of h 2=0.11±0.04 to h 2=0.28±0.06 were estimated. For the sow’s reaction towards separation from her litter low heritabilities were found (h 2=0.03±0.03 for separation test on day 1 pp and h 2=0.02±0.03 for separation test on day 10 pp). Heritabilities for lactating sow’s performance (farrowing behaviour, rearing performance, usability of the sow and udder quality) in the farrowing unit ranged from h 2=0.03±0.02 to h 2=0.19±0.03. Due to these results it can be assumed that selection for these traits, for example, for udder quality or reduced aggression, is possible. Antagonistic associations were found between separation test on day 1 pp and different measures of aggressiveness (r g=−0.22±0.26 aggressive attack and r g=−0.41±0.33 reciprocal fighting). Future studies should determine economic as well as welfare-related values of these traits in order to decide whether selection for these traits will be reasonable. © The Animal Consortium 2016 Source


Tonepohl B.,University of Gottingen | Appel A.K.,University of Gottingen | Welp S.,University of Gottingen | Voss B.,BHZP GmbH | And 2 more authors.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science | Year: 2012

The rearing environment of farmed animals can affect their behaviour when handled, and therefore needs to be taken into account when selecting for traits such as docility. Therefore, 126 German Landrace and Pietrain × German Landrace pigs were reared in two different production environments (barren (n= 47) or slightly enriched (n= 79)), both corresponding to commercial conditions. The marginal enrichment included the provision of more toys, an additional feeder type, and a larger number of conspecifics, while space allowance per pig remained equal. Pigs' responses to (a) a novel arena test (NAT), (b) a novel object test (NOT), and (c) weighing, were compared, together with the number of skin lesions (an indicator of aggressiveness). While the differences in behaviour in the NAT were not significant (p> 0.1), the differences in the other tests were significant. In the NOT enriched housed pigs contacted the novel object more frequently (p= 0.0124) and showed a tendency for a greater total duration of manipulating the novel object (p= 0.0641). Furthermore, the pigs housed in enriched environment were calmer at loading onto the scale (p= 0.0008), but more agitated on the scale (p< 0.0001). Barren housed pigs had more severe skin lesions (p= 0.0074). Correlations between scores from the behaviour tests and the daily weight gain were not significant. However, correlations between the behaviour patterns measured in the tests revealed that pigs which showed more activity in the NAT and NOT were also more active in the other tests. Results indicate that marginal changes in the housing environment affect the behaviour of the pigs. Overall, the activity of barren housed animals seemed to be reduced, as revealed by the behaviour tests. Therefore, the housing environment must be taken into consideration carefully when evaluating the behaviour or indicator traits such as skin lesions for selection purposes in pigs. In addition, results of the present study have implications for animal welfare, showing that marginal enrichment of rearing environment leads to changes in behaviour that may partially be related to improved cognitive and/or physical development of the pigs. © 2012 Elsevier B.V.. Source

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