Greenwood, E. C., Dickson, C. A., van Wettere, W. H. E. J. 2019. Feeding strategies before and at mixing: The effect on sow aggression and behavior. Animals 9(1), 23

Hierarchy formation in domestic sows results in aggression and stress, which might be ameliorated through nutritional satiety. The effect on aggression in group housed, gestating sows provided a standard or high volume of a “standard” diet, or diet enhanced with lignocellulose before, at, and after mixing was studied. Ninety-six Large White cross Landrace weaned sows were allocated to: control diet (CON), high volume diet (HI), and lignocellulose-enhanced diet before and at mixing (LC), and after mixing (LCM) (24 sows per treatment). Sows were housed in stalls for 10 days before mixing, when the CON, HI, and LCM groups were fed a standard diet, and in the LC group, a diet enhanced with lignocellulose at 2.5% was given. At mixing, the CON group continued on a standard diet at 2.5 kg/sow per day, HI were fed the standard diet at 4 kg/sow per day for the first four days and 2.5 kg/sow per day thereafter, and LC and LCM were fed the lignocellulose-enhanced diet at 2.5 kg/sow per day. Behavior, salivary cortisol concentrations, lesion number, and condition were recorded on M0, M1, M6, and M14. Reproduction was assessed using pregnancy rate and progesterone measurements. There were several treatment effects on aggression in the sows following mixing. There were significantly lower fight numbers (CON = 0.34 ± 0.03 Log (1 + x) transformed mean and SEM (1.49 untransformed adjusted mean), LC = 0.31 ± 0.04 (1.14), LCM = 0.42 ± 0.04 (0.28), HI = 0.35 ± 0.04 (1.64); p = 0.001) and longer individual fight durations in the LCM group compared to the CON and LC group (CON = 0.88 s ± 0.07 Log transformed mean and SEM (10.31 s, untransformed adjusted mean), LC = 0.89 ± 0.09 (13.51), LCM = 1.16 ± 0.07 (21.43), HI = 01.03 ± 0.07 (16.42); p = 0.04), and overall higher injury numbers in the LC and LCM groups than the HI. Time spent eating was significantly lower in the CON group than both HI and LC (CON = 7.79 ± 0.37, LC = 8.91 ± 0.38, LCM = 8.49 ± 0.42, HI = 9.55 ± 0.39; p = 0.007). The time spent drinking was also affected by treatment, with more time spent drinking in CON than LC (p = 0.024). The condition score of the sows was affected by diet, with higher condition scores in the HI group than LCM and LC (CON = 2.98 ± 0.11, LC = 2.75 ± 0.10, LCM = 2.74 ± 0.10, HI = 3.12 ± 0.10; p = 0.017). These results suggest that feeding a diet containing 2.5% lignocellulose and a standard diet at a high feeding level for four days post-mixing may affect overall aggression and possibly satiety levels. Our data found decreased fight numbers and increased fight duration in the LCM compared to the LC treatment, and therefore, feeding the fiber source before mixing affects aggression levels differently than when fed just after mixing. A further understanding of different fiber sources and how their physiochemical properties affect digestion and sow satiety would enable critical evaluation and use of fiber sources for benefits in reducing aggression at mixing.

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