Dealing with the consequences of aggressive behavior in sows is one of the greatest challenges with the transition to group-housing systems, according to Monique Pairis-Garcia, PhD, Ohio State University.
In an article in Pig Progress, she outlines how our growing understanding of sow behavior has helped identify three different areas — housing, nutrition and genetics — that can help to benefit the welfare of all the sows in the group.
She notes that aggression is normal in sows. It is aimed at establishing the hierarchy in a group, and is most intense for the first 48 hours after mixing. Although the order of dominance may be established quite quickly, there may be significant adverse consequences on sow welfare and productivity resulting from the earlier bouts of fighting.
To address these concerns, scientists have focused on looking for ways to minimize the adverse effects of aggression during mixing through housing, nutrition and genetics.
Pairis-Garcia explains how altering house design, adjusting the diet, and selecting for more docile sows can help mitigate aggression and its negative consequences.