Post-weaning social and cognitive performance of piglets raised pre-weaning either in a complex multi-suckling group housing system or in a conventional system with a crated sow

S.E. van Nieuwamerongen, M. Mendl, S. Held, N.M. Soede, J.E. Bolhuis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

We studied the social and cognitive performance of piglets raised pre-weaning either in a conventional system with a sow in a farrowing crate (FC) or in a multi-suckling (MS) system in which 5 sows and their piglets could interact in a more physically enriched and spacious environment. After weaning at 4 weeks of age, 8 groups of 4 litter-mates per pre-weaning housing treatment were studied under equal and enriched post-weaning housing conditions. From each pen, one pair consisting of a dominant and a submissive pig was selected, based on a feed competition test (FCT) 2 weeks post-weaning. This pair was used in an informed forager test (IFT) which measured aspects of spatial learning and foraging strategies in a competitive context. During individual training, submissive (informed) pigs learned to remember a bait location in a testing arena with 8 buckets (the same bucket was baited in a search visit and a subsequent relocation visit), whereas dominant (non-informed) pigs always found the bait in a random bucket (search visits only). After learning their task, the informed pigs’ individual search visit was followed by a pairwise relocation visit in which they were accompanied by the non-informed pig. Effects of pre-weaning housing treatment were not distinctly present regarding the occurrence of aggression in the FCT and the learning performance during individual training in the IFT. During paired visits, informed and non-informed pigs changed their behaviour in response to being tested pairwise instead of individually, but MS and FC pigs showed few distinct behavioural differences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-921
JournalAnimal Cognition
Volume20
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Cognitive development
  • Group housing
  • Informed forager test
  • Multi-suckling system
  • Pigs
  • Social development

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