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Design and use of piglet nests in commercial farms and the effects of improved piglet nest design

Baldinger, Lisa; Bussemas, Ralf and Heidbüchel, Katharina (2022) Design and use of piglet nests in commercial farms and the effects of improved piglet nest design. Thünen-Institut für Ökologischen Landbau .

[thumbnail of POWER_deliverable 2_3 report piglet nest.pdf] PDF - English
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On organic farms with indoor housing systems, sows usually farrow in unheated free farrowing pens. This is beneficial for their animal welfare, but can cause piglet losses due to hypothermia and being injured by the sow. To counteract these risks, a heated piglet nest only accessible to the piglets is provided. We visited eleven farms in Germany to gain an insight into the status quo of piglet nest design, and conducted an on-station trial to compare measures of piglet nest design and management with regard to the effect on nest use and behaviour in the nest. The design of the piglet nests on the farms was diverse, and farmers were mostly satisfied with their piglet nests. However, they did see potential for improvement and were interested in new options. In the on-station trial at the experimental farm of Thünen Institute of Organic Farming, we compared electric floor heating and infrared lid heating, lighting the nest with a small red LED light, or not, and confining the piglets in the nest during the sow's first four feeding times after farrowing, or not. Video recordings of the first 72 h after farrowing of a total of 113 litters were analysed using a scan sampling method with an interval of 10 min. Litters of the variants with confinement in the nest showed considerably more frequent nest use than variants without confinement. The type of heating and the presence of light did not have a clear effect on nest use. None of the tested measures had an effect on piglet losses. Apart from the tested treatments, nest use increased with age, was more frequent during the day than during the night, and piglets used the nest more frequent in winter than in summer. Regarding the piglets´ behavior, no clear differences between the measures could be determined. However, piglets were more active during the day than during the night, and resting in scattered position was considerably more frequent during summer than during the rest of the year. To summarize, the nest use and behavior of suckling piglets in their first three days of life were subject to influences of piglet age, daytime and season. Neither position of the heat source nor the presence of light affected nest use and piglet behavior. Repeated temporary confinement of the piglets to the nest did increase its use, therefore it might be worthwhile to study this treatment more closely.

EPrint Type:Report
Keywords:piglet, nest, losses
Agrovoc keywords:
German - Deutsch
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Pigs
Research affiliation: Germany > Federal Organic Farming Scheme - BOELN
European Union > CORE Organic > CORE Organic Cofund > POWER
Germany > Federal Research Institute for Rural Areas, Forestry and Fisheries - VTI > Institute of Organic Farming - OEL
Related Links:https://www.thuenen.de/de/ol/projekte/schweinehaltung/ferkelnest/
Deposited By: Baldinger, Dr Lisa
ID Code:43376
Deposited On:20 Jan 2022 15:51
Last Modified:20 Jan 2022 15:51
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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