Circadian rhythms and diurnal patterns in the feed intake behaviour of growing-finishing pigs

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The feeding behaviour of growing-finishing pigs is an important indicator of performance, health and welfare, but this use is limited by its large, poorly-understood variation. We explored the variation in basal feed intake of individual pigs by detecting circadian rhythms, extracting features of diurnal patterns and assessing consistency over time, from day-to-day and across age. Hourly feed intake data of individual pigs (n = 110) was obtained during one growing-finishing phase, using electronic feeding stations. We applied wavelet analysis to assess rhythms and a hurdle generalised additive model to extract features of diurnal patterns. We found that circadian rhythms could be detected during 58 ± 3% (mean ± standard error) of days in the growing-finishing phase (range 0–100%), predominantly at older ages. Although the group diurnal intake pattern was alternans (small morning peak, larger afternoon peak), individual pigs showed a range of diurnal patterns that changed with age, differing mostly in the extent of night fasting and day-to-day consistency. Our results suggest that the type, day-to-day consistency and age development of diurnal patterns in feed intake show general group patterns but also differ between pigs. Using this knowledge, promising features may be selected to compare against production, health and welfare parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number16021
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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