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Chronic intermittent stress exposure and access to grass silage interact differently in their effect on behaviour, gastric health and stress physiology of entire or castrated male growing finishing pigs

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Holinger, Mirjam; Früh, Barbara; Stoll, Peter; Graage, Robert; Wirth, Sandra; Bruckmaier, Rupert; Prunier, Armelle; Kreuzer, Michael and Hillmann, Edna (2018) Chronic intermittent stress exposure and access to grass silage interact differently in their effect on behaviour, gastric health and stress physiology of entire or castrated male growing finishing pigs. Physiology and Behavior, 195, pp. 58-68.

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Online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031938418305250

Summary

Entire male pigs display more aggressive and sexual behaviour. This might cause a condition of chronic stress and impair their welfare. In order to assess chronic stress in entire and castrated male pigs, as well as effects of providing grass silage as occupational and feed material on behaviour and health, we carried out a 2 × 2 × 2-factorial experiment with 147 growing-finishing pigs. Factors investigated were castration (entire/castrated), chronic intermittent social stress exposure (yes/no) and access to grass silage (yes/no), as well as their interactions. The stress exposure treatment consisted of repeated short-term confrontations and separations. We recorded different behavioural variables, circadian rhythm of salivary cortisol, response to an ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) challenge test, pathological changes in the gastric mucosa and morphology of the intestinal epithelium. Stress exposure caused a decrease in posture changes and head knocks/bites in the home pen. Reference indicators affected by stress exposure did not differ between entire and castrated male pigs, indicating that there is no permanently increased baseline level of stress in entire male pigs. However, entire males responded more pronouncedly to the stress exposure compared to castrated males in terms of posture changes and play behaviour. Pigs provided with grass silage showed more play behaviour and less manipulative behaviours than pigs not receiving grass silage. Stress treated pigs had more hyperkeratosis in the gastric mucosa and gastric ulcers, while offering grass silage reduced such changes. In conclusion, our results indicate that the increased behavioural stress response of entire male pigs might require some adaptations in housing and management of entire male pigs. Gastric ulceration scoring turned out to be a potential post mortem indicator for chronic stress. Finally, providing roughages like grass silage could be a means to positively affect behaviour and gastric health in pigs.


EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Entire male pig, Roughage, Gastric ulcer, ACTH challenge, Salivary cortisol, Pars oesophagea, Stress reactivity, animal husbandry, animal feeding, animal welfare
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Feeding and growth
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Pigs
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal Husbandry and Breeding
Switzerland > Agroscope
Switzerland > ETHZ - Agrarwissenschaften
Switzerland > Zürich University
France > INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
Switzerland > Other organizations
DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.07.019
Related Links:https://www.fibl.org/en/switzerland/research/animal-sciences/animal-welfare-husbandry.html
Deposited By: Holinger, Dr. sc ETH Mirjam
ID Code:34507
Deposited On:14 Feb 2019 11:45
Last Modified:14 Feb 2019 11:45
Document Language:English
Status:Published
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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