Improving maternal care of loose housed sows

Project: PhD

Project Details


Housing systems of sows during lactation will shift from crated systems towards non-restrictive systems, to improve sow welfare. However, the increased behavioural freedom of sows in such loose farrowing systems currently comes with an increase in piglet mortality. In these systems, piglet survival becomes highly dependent on the quality of maternal care. A good mother is calm, careful and responsive to the needs of her litter. Yet, there are clear differences in maternal care between sows. If all sows would be good to their offspring, loose farrowing systems would be easy to implement. With this project we will increase our understanding of maternal care in loose farrowing systems. We will perform (automated) behavioural observations on sows with known genetic background, to identify maternal behaviours around parturition and during lactation in loose farrowing systems and relate these to piglet survival and weight gain. The second part of the project builds upon the first part and intends to elucidate the underlying endocrine regulation of the maternal care behaviours. This will be done by studying the relation between endocrine profiles and the quality of maternal care displayed by sows with high vs. low expected quality of maternal care. We will thus use a multidisciplinary approach that combines behavioural, physiological and genetic information, to form the basis for the selection of sows with high quality maternal care in loose farrowing systems. This will increase the success of loose farrowing systems and ensure better welfare for not only the sow, but also her litter.
Effective start/end date1/09/22 → …


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.