This experiment investigated the effect of providing access to straw in racks on the welfare of sows in large dynamic groups. Two treatments were applied: (1) access to two racks containing chopped barley straw (offering an average of 0.3 kg straw/sow/day) and (2) control, with no straw racks. Treatments were applied to two separate dynamic groups each containing 35 ( 3) sows. Approximately 9 sows were replaced in each of these groups at 3-week intervals (each replacement constituting a replicate of the study). Peak rack usage was shown between 08:00 and 12:00 h, where on average 6% of sows were observed at each rack. On average over a 24-h period, 27% of sows that were observed at the racks were newly introduced. This percentage was significantly greater in the pre- rather than post-feeding yard (P 0.05). A greater proportion of sows performed sham chewing behaviour in the post- rather than the pre-feeding yard (P 0.05). Overall, providing access to straw in racks led to a reduction in pen-directed exploratory behaviour, and this may reflect the fact that sows were provided with an outlet for exploratory and/or foraging behaviour. However, the fact that sham chewing behaviour was not affected suggests that welfare benefits associated with the straw rack treatment were limited. (C) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology