Grower-Finisher Pigs Can Be Stimulated to Engage in Play

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Farmscape for July 21, 2022

Full Interview 11:57 Listen

Research conducted by the Western College of Veterinary Medicine indicates grower-finisher pigs can be stimulated to engage in play.
The Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with the Prairie Swine Center with funding provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and 14 industry partners, has completed the second in a series of studies exploring the beneficial effects of play in growing pigs. Karolina Steinerova, a PhD student, with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, says this second experiment was developed to determine if it’s possible to promote play among pigs from 10 weeks of age until slaughter at 22 weeks of age.

Clip-Karolina Steinerova-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
The experiment about promotion of play in growing pigs asks several questions. Firstly, we ask if it’s possible to promote play in the older pig and sustain it over the growing life? Secondly, it is of interest to identify if play reduces stress and promotes a positive emotional state. To see if play could be promoted growing pigs were tested in three different treatments. Pigs were given regular play opportunities and play was either stimulated through enrichment items in their home pen or alternatively when given access to a larger play pen area. Enrichment items were rotated weekly and, at specific times, sprayed with various essential oils to support novelty which also promotes play. Behavior of animals exposed to play was recorded and, even though the analysis is still ongoing, it can be said that play in growing pigs did occur and it appears that it could be sustained but we are yet to complete statistical analysis.

Steinerova says researchers are also evaluating effects of play on the physiological response to stress and on the emotional state of pigs.
She says the findings will be used to determine if play is an indicator of positive welfare and to develop tools that can be used to enhance the quality of life of the animals.

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