Christine Pelland from South West Ontario Veterinary Services, What’s More Fun Than A Toy? A: A Clean Toy!


Environmental enrichment is an important part of maintaing animal welfare standards. The effect of environmental enrichment has previously been assessed in a number of production scenarios. These Brazilian researchers focused on the effects of enrichment in nursery pigs. In addition, they wanted to evaluate the effect of cleanliness of the enrichment material on behaviour.


A total of 450, 21 day old hybrid pigs (6 kg), including both females and uncastrated males were distributed in a completely randomised design with 3 treatments and 3 replicates of 50 animals each. The behavioural assessments were performed once a week on a subset of 10 pigs  within each pen and took place between 8 am to 6 pm with images captured with a video camera. The treatments included the following:

  • Control pen with no environmental enrichment
  • EEC Treatment consisted of continuous environmental enrichment with rubber balls throughout the experimental period
  • EEWB Treatment consisted of environmental enrichment with washed balls (EEWB) throughout the experimental period. The balls were removed daily for washing.

The researchers found the following:

  • B5 behaviour (playful) –  EEWB treatment group had a higher frequency of B5 than animals in the control treatment group.  (P = 0.001)
  • B7 behaviour (lying down) – Control group had a higher frequency of  B7 than animals in the EEWB and EEC treatment groups.  (P = 0.026)
  • B9 behaviour (belly nosing) – Control group had a higher frequency of the B9 than animals in the EEWB group (P = 0.015)

Take Home Message:

  • This study confirms previous research that has demonstrated significant improvement in welfare friendly behaviours when enrichment tools are provided.
  • This study also confirms that keeping enrichment toys “cleaner” will further improve the response. Although washing the balls daily is not likely to be a practical solution it does suggest that the practice of suspending toys off the floor will increase the time that pigs will spend playing with them.

Submitted by Dr. Christine Pelland

Ref:  Joselaine Bortolanza Padilha-Boaretto , Priscila Michelin Groff-Urayama , Suelen Maria Einsfeld , Cleverson de Souza , Angélica Signor Mendes , Emilyn Midori Maeda , Sabrina Endo Takahashi   Effect of environmental enrichment for piglets in the nursery phase   Asian-Australas J Anim Sci . 2020 Jun 24. doi: 10.5713/ajas.20.0222. Online ahead of print.