Social rank of pregnant sows affects their body weight gain and behavior and performance of the offspring

G. Kranendonk, H. van der Mheen, M. Fillerup, H. Hopster

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44 Citations (Scopus)


Previous studies on group housing of pregnant sows have mainly focused on reproduction, but we hypothesized that the social rank of pregnant sows housed in groups could also affect birth weight, growth, and behavior of their offspring. Therefore, in the present study, pregnant gilts and sows were housed in 15 different groups (n = 7 to 14 animals per group) from 4 d after AI until 1 wk before the expected farrowing date. All groups were fed by an electronically controlled sow feeding system that registered, on a 24-h basis, the time of first visit, number of feeding and nonfeeding visits, and number of times succeeding another sow within 2 s. Only in the first 6 groups (n = 57 animals), agonistic interactions were observed continuously. The percentage of agonistic interactions won was highly correlated (rs = 0.90, P <0.001) with the percentage of displacement success (DS) at the feeding station, which was calculated as: [the number of times succeeding another sow within 2 s/(the number of times succeeded by another sow within 2 s + the number of times succeeding another sow within 2 s)] x 100. This allowed us to classify all sows (n = 166) according to their DS: high-social ranking (HSR) sows had a DS >50% (n = 62) and low-social ranking (LSR) sows a DS
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-429
JournalJournal of Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 2007



  • prenatal stress
  • feeding-behavior
  • growing pigs
  • guinea-pigs
  • cortisol
  • neuroendocrine
  • responses
  • gender
  • growth
  • brain

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