The effect of feeding a high fibre diet on the welfare of sows housed in large dynamic groups

C.L. Stewart, L.A. Boyle, M.E.E. McCann, Niamh O'Connell

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8 Citations (Scopus)


This study assessed the effect of increasing fibre levels in the concentrate ration on the welfare of sows housed in a large dynamic group. One hundred and twelve Large White x Landrace sows were allocated to one of two treatments over six replicates. Treatments were as follows: (i) High Fibre diet (similar to 15% CF [Crude Fibre]), and (ii) Control diet (similar to 5% CF). Treatments were applied to two separate dynamic groups each containing 33 (+/- 3) sows in a cross-over design, after three replicates the treatments were switched between the groups. Approximately nine sows were replaced in each of these groups at 3-week intervals (each replacement constituting a replicate of the study). Sows on the high fibre diet spent a greater percentage of time lying (High Fibre: 43.8, Control. 28.0, SEM 3.25%), while sows on the control diet spent more time sham chewing (High Fibre: 7.2, Control: 28.8, SEM 1.55%). Sows newly introduced to the group on the high fibre treatment spent proportionally more time in the kennel areas compared to newly introduced sows in the control treatment (High Fibre. 0.893, Control. 0 788, SEM 5 10) In general, aggression occurred at a very low frequency and overall levels did not differ between treatments (High Fibre: 0.005, Control: 0.003, SEM 0.0007 [occurrences per min)). However, sows in the control treatment performed head thrusting (High Fibre: 0.02, Control: 0.00, SEM 0.001 [occurrences per mini), and biting behaviour (High Fibre. 002, Control. 0.01, SEM 0.002 [occurrences per min]) more frequently than sows on the high fibre diet. There was no effect of treatment on physiological parameters such as plasma cortisol (High Fibre: 1.34, Control: 1.44, SEM 0.114 ng ml(-1)) or haptoglobin levels (High Fibre. 0.73, Control. 0.64, SEM 0.080 mg ml(-1)). In summary, provision of a high fibre diet had a positive effect on the welfare of group-housed dry sows Sows on the high fibre treatment spent more time resting in the kennel areas, less time performing stereotypic behaviours and showed a reduction in some aggressive behaviours relative to sows fed the control diet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-357
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Welfare
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • veterinary(all)


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