Backtest type and housing condition of pigs influence energy metabolism

N.A. Geverink, M.J.W. Heetkamp, W.G.P. Schouten, V.M. Wiegant, J.W. Schrama

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33 Citations (Scopus)


The behavioral response of piglets in a backtest early in life seems indicative of their coping strategy at a later age. Coping characteristics may depend on the interaction between backtest classification and housing conditions. We studied whether growth rate and partitioning of energy in adult gilts were related to response in the backtest early in life, and to housing in groups or individual stalls. During the suckling period, female piglets were subjected to the backtest. Each piglet was restrained on its back for 1 min, and the number of escape attempts was scored. Thirty-six high-resisting gilts and 36 low-resisting gilts were selected. After weaning, pigs were housed in 12 groups of six (three high-resisting and three low-resisting). From 7 mo of age onward, 36 gilts out of six groups were housed in individual stalls, whereas the other gilts remained group housed. At 13 mo of age, gilts were housed in clusters of three (three high-resisting or three low-resisting) for an experimental period of 7 d in climatic respiration chambers. Group-housed gilts were loose housed, and stall-housed gilts were housed in stalls within the chamber. Despite the fact that high-resisting and low-resisting gilts did not differ (P = 0. 269) in initial BW, low-resisting gilts showed a higher (P = 0.039) ADG during the experimental period in association with a higher (P = 0.043) energy metabolizability. This suggests that, in line with the theory on coping strategies, high-resisting gilts may have more difficulties in adapting to a change in environment, (i.e., the change from home pen to climatic chamber). Group-and stall-housed gilts differed (P = 0.001) in initial BW, with group-housed gilts being heavier. During the experimental period, stall-housed gilts showed lower energy metabolizability (P = 0.001), lower energy retention (P = 0.001), and a higher energy requirement for maintenance (P = 0. 001) due to a higher activity-related heat production (P = 0.001). This finding suggests that stall housing might have a negative influence on performance and partitioning of energy when animals are adapting to a change in their environment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1227-1233
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • environment interactions
  • individual-differences
  • manual restraint
  • breeding gilts
  • pregnant sows
  • coping styles
  • laying hens
  • behavior
  • system
  • physiology


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