Early life socialization of piglets has been shown to reduce piglet aggression at weaning, but information on sow health and long-term benefits is lacking. We aimed to assess how socialization impacts sow udder quality and long-term pig behaviour and growth. At two weeks of age, 65 litters either experienced socialization with one other litter (SOC) or did not (control; CON). Sows (housed in farrowing crates) were scored for teat damage and piglets were observed for aggressive behaviour (resident-intruder test) and growth and skin lesions up to 11 weeks under conventional farm conditions (including weaning and regrouping). At weaning, SOC sows had more teat damage than CON sows (p = 0.04). SOC piglets had double the number of lesions 24 h post-socialization compared to the control (19 versus 8; p < 0.001). In the resident-intruder test, more SOC pigs attacked the intruder (SOC 78%; CON 66%; p < 0.01), and attacked more quickly (p = 0.01). During regrouping (week 8), SOC pigs had 19% fewer lesions (SOC 68; CON 84; p < 0.05), but three weeks later, groups did not differ. Growth was unaffected by treatment. Overall, socialized piglets seem to be equipped with greater confidence or agonistic skills, leading to fewer injuries from fighting up to at least six weeks after socialization.
Camerlink, I., Farish, M., D'Eath, R. B., Arnott, G., & Turner, S. (2018). Long term benefits on social behaviour after early life socialization of piglets. Animals, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8110192