Researchers Examine Role of Play in Social Development and Productivity

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Farmscape for March 22, 2021

Full Interview 12:19 Listen

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are looking at the role of play in the development and productivity of the pig.
Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are examining the potential of using play to enhance pig welfare and promote beneficial production characteristics. Dr. Giuliana Miguel Pacheco, a Post Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, says research shows play is perfumed in the absence of fear, pain and illness.

Clip-Dr. Giuliana Miguel Pacheco-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
We know that play has a strong function and role in pig development, preparing the pig for an expected event, influencing social development and learning about environment. It is believed that supporting the expression of play will confirm efficient charteristics in pigs, helping them to cope with challenges that could be stressful. It is also assumed that performing play triggers positive emotions.
These two reasons are very important for the Canadian swine industry, particularly in an era where consumers are more concerned about farm animal welfare and antibiotic use. Promoting resilience in pigs could potentially reduce the use of antibiotics through reducing the effects of negative stress on the body. So the main goals of this work are, to identify the most effective and practical methods to trigger play in commercial systems of production, to measure the effect of play promotion on production efficiency and social development.
We are reducing social stress so it could help to increase production efficiency. The final goal is to determine whether opportunities to play can induce positive emotions and influence the pig’s immune response and ability to respond effectively to stress.

Dr.  Miguel Pacheco says the first of four experiments is now underway. She says, from personal observation, it seems pigs that have an opportunity to play are calmer when handled and resolve conflict faster but the data has not yet been analysed so nothing can be said for certain.

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