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Sow lying behaviors before, during and after farrowing

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting  162461921.(doi:10.13031/aim.20162461921)
Authors:   Fengdan LAO, Tami M. Brown-Brandl, John P. Stinn, Guanghui Teng, Kai Liu, Hongwei Xin
Keywords:   Pre-weaning mortality, sow postural behaviors, image analysis, localized heating

Abstract. Piglet pre-weaning mortality remains a considerable challenge for the swine industry, representing one of the key areas where animal well-being and economical interest coincide. Sows and piglets carry out a complex series of behaviors during the farrowing/lactation period. These behaviors during the first few days after parturition are extremely important for piglet survival, and they can be greatly impacted by the farrowing system, environment, and/or management. The risk of sow crushing is much greater for piglets when the sow changes her postures. Limited studies have investigated the effects of environment on sow‘s posture changes or basic understanding of sow‘s lying or other behavior patterns. Using a computer vision and analysis system, this study aims to characterize sows‘ postural behaviors before, during and after farrowing to ultimately reduce pre-weaning piglet mortality and to understand the relationship between placement of localized heat source (heat lamp) and its impact on sows‘ lying preference, if any. Analysis of data with 15 sows thus far reveals the following preliminary observations. The sows do not seem to have a preference of lying on one side vs. the other before farrowing regardless of absence or presence of a heat lamp on the side. However, heat lamp in the creep area significantly affects the sows‘ lying side in the first 3 days after farrowing. Interestingly, the lactating sows demonstrated the postural behavior of facing more of her backside toward the heat lamp relative to before farrowing. Such a behavior would not be in the best interest of the piglets‘ well-being. The presence of heat lamp during the lactation period seemed to have some carryover effect on the sow‘s lying posture when the heat lamp was tuned off with elder piglets. Sows change their behaviors (lying, sitting, standing, and movement) over the farrowing cycle. In particular, sow‘s behaviors change sharply 24 h prior to farrowing, making it is possible to predict farrowing time by analyzing the behavioral changes with the automatic tracking system. More data are being collected.

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