Training gilts to use a feeder station

Research output: Book/ReportReportProfessional


Group housing of dry sows is compulsory in Europe from 2013 onwards. Many pig farmers who still have to convert to group housing fear the resulting demand on their ability to interact with individual animals. An example of such interaction is the training of gilts to use economically attractive but complicated feeding systems such as electronic sow feeding stations (ESF). Electronic Sow Feeding is a more complex husbandry system, which requires training from both animal and human. Pig farmers use a wide variety of training methods, ranging from a total free situation where the animals have the possibility to learn the feeding station without human interaction to systems in which the animal is confronted with thorough human interventions. The first method incorporates the risk that some animals do not consume any feed in several days. The second method is more time consuming and sometimes stressful for the animals. If a calm and relaxed training method proves to be an efficient way to train animals, this could also be used in other on farm situations. Wechsler and Lea (2007) concluded that there is a lack of studies focusing on the initial phase after the introduction of farm animals into a new housing system and a lack of studies on the way they learn to use new housing equipment. An assessment of training systems on Danish pig farms (Hansen and Vinther, 2004) has resulted in the advice not to interact too soon and let the animals discover the skills themselves. The way the animals experience the human intervention can be assessed by measuring heart rate variability (HRV) (Von Borell et al., 2007). They state that “HRV is a promising approach for evaluating stress and emotional states in animals”. The results of this project can be used in the knowledge transfer about human animal relationships within the Welfare Quality programme.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLelystad
PublisherWageningen UR Livestock Research
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • animal welfare
  • pigs
  • sows
  • pig farming
  • pig housing
  • pig feeding
  • feeding systems
  • animal behaviour
  • animal production


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