Beaudoin, J.-M., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N. et al. 2019. Growing pigs’ interest in enrichment objects with different characteristics and cleanliness. Animals 9(3), 85.
Enrichment objects can be a practical way to provide rooting and chewing material to growing pigs, on which they can express species-specific behaviors. The challenge is to provide enrichment objects that will satisfy pigs’ behavioral needs, while being practical and low-cost for the producers. Two trials were conducted to evaluate the effects of object characteristics such as design, location, cleanliness or degree of wear, on pigs’ interest over time. The first trial compared seven objects, varying in their design and location, presented individually for five consecutive days to groups of 12 ± 3 (average ± SD) pigs, weighing 61 ± 9.2 kg. The pigs’ interest in the objects was evaluated based on the frequency, total duration and mean length of manipulation with the objects. All objects were manipulated at different levels depending on their characteristics. On average, the pigs interacted more frequently (p < 0.001) with a chewable object made of three polyurethane balls, spring-mounted and anchored to the floor, and spent more time manipulating a dried wood beam on the floor (p < 0.05), which was destructible and chewable, than suspended ropes, plastics and rubber objects, and a plastic ball on the floor. The second trial used two-choice preference tests to compare objects varying in their degree of cleanliness or wear, presented in pairs to growing pigs weighing 47 ± 7 kg and housed in groups of 14 ± 1. Two identical objects were placed simultaneously in a pen over 5 days, and only one of them was cleaned or replaced daily (treatment) while the duplicate was left untouched (control). The results showed no clear preference between control and treatment objects, indicating that short-term maintenance of the objects might be unnecessary.