Behaviour and other indices of welfare in growing/finishing pigs kept on Straw Flow, bare concrete, full slats and deep-straw
The current trends in the intensive production of growing/finishing pigs are to devise alternative systems which help to improve welfare by the provision of a malleable substrate, such as straw, in order that the pigs can carry out natural behaviour. This project examined the welfare of growing/finishing pigs on four treatments; a new alternative system called the Straw-Flow (c) (SF), which used roughly a 1/4 of the amount of straw of a traditional deep-straw bedded system (1.9 and 8 kg/d respectively), was compared to bare-concrete (BC), fully-slatted (FS) and deep-straw (DS) treatments using a multi-disciplinary study involving behaviour, physical health, productivity and physiology. The four pen treatments were all built within the same building and they all measured 4x2.7m. There were three replicates of entire male pigs which were randomly allocated to each treatment from approximately 28 to 89 kg. During daylight hours, the pigs on the straw-based treatments (ST), ie . the SF and the DS, spent approximately 26% of their time in straw-directed behaviour. Where there was no straw (NOST), ie , the BC and the FS, there was more inactivity (45% and 59% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p< 0.001), behaviour directed towards the pen hardware (2% and 13% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p&60 0.001), chewing penmates; (0.05% and 0.19% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p< 0.07) and vacuum chewing (0.2% and 1.4% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p< 0.001). These differences were thought to be due to a lack of suitable malleable substrate on the NOST treatments which caused a redirection in the exploratory and foraging behaviour of the pigs compared to the pigs from the ST treatments. However, there was more play on the ST compared to the NOST in the form of running and scampering (0.15% and 0.02% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p< 0.05) and shoving and pushing penmates (2.9% and 1.8% of time on the ST and NOST respectively, p= 0.14).