Foraging in the farrowing room to stimulate feeding behaviour

Anouschka Middelkoop, B. Kemp, J.E. Bolhuis

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterAcademic


Timely intake of solid feed is essential to ease the nutritional change from sow’s milk to feed atweaning and thereby to reduce weaning stress. A significant percentage of piglets, however, donot or hardly consume feed until weaning. Reducing sensory-specific satiety and stimulatingexploratory behaviour towards the feed(er) may enhance pre-weaning feed intake. We thereforestudied the effect of feed variety, feed presentation and their interaction on feed exploration,eating behaviour and growth of suckling piglets. Feed was provided ad libitum from d4 in twofeeders (four feeding spaces each) per pen. In a 2×2 arrangement, piglets received either onefeed item (creep feed) as a monotonous diet (MO) or received four feed items simultaneously(creep feed, celery, peanuts in shell and cereal honey loops) as a diverse diet (DV) and the feedwas either presented without substrate (CON) or hidden in sand (SUB) in one of two feedersto stimulate foraging behaviour. Feed exploration and eating was observed live at d11, 18 and27 using 2-min instantaneous scan sampling for 6 h/d. To study presentation preferenceswithin SUB, it was noted at which feeder piglets were exploring/eating. Observations werealso used to determine ‘eaters’ i.e. piglets scored eating at least once. Piglets were weighed atd4, 26 and 28 (at weaning). Data were analysed in mixed models with a random pen effect.No interactions between feed variety and feed presentation were found. SUB-piglets tendedto spent more time on exploration in the feeder at d11 (0.5 vs 0.3% of time) and tended toeat more often at d18 than CON-piglets (4.2 vs 3.2% of time; P<0.10). Within SUB, pigletspreferred to visit the feeder with sand to explore, as they spent at least two times more onexploration, but not eating, in this feeder at all observation days (P<0.05) versus the feederwithout sand. DV-piglets spent at least two and a half times more time on feed explorationand eating than MO-piglets throughout lactation (P<0.0009 at all observation days). Eatingthe common creep feed, however, was seen two times more in MO than in DV-piglets at d18(P<0.01) and d27 (P<0.05). DV enhanced the percentage of eaters/litter (d11: 71%, d18: 95%,d27: 99%) at all observation days (P<0.05) compared to MO (d11: 45%, d18: 71%, d27: 81%).DV-piglets also tended to grow faster in the last two days prior to weaning compared to MOpiglets(28 g/d, P<0.10). In conclusion, a diverse feeding regime for suckling piglets stimulatedfeed exploration, eating and the % of eaters from an early age onwards, and enhanced theirgrowth towards weaning. Feed presentation in a foraging-stimulating context only subtlystimulated exploratory behaviour and eating. As such, the data suggests that dietary diversityis a promising feeding strategy in getting piglets to eat during lactation and may thereforebenefit welfare and performance around weaning, while provision of substrate in the feederstimulates natural foraging behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event53rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE): Animal Lives Worth Living - Bergen, Norway
Duration: 5 Aug 20199 Aug 2019


Conference53rd Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology (ISAE)

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