Li, S., Hu, H., Huang, J. et al. 2022. Effect of enrichment items on the physiology and behavior of sows in the third trimester of pregnancy. Animals 12(11), 1355.
Modern intensive pig breeding harms animal welfare, which is especially noticeable for pregnant sows kept in confinement stalls. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of enrichment items on the movement and physiological parameters of sows in the third trimester of pregnancy. A total of 30 large white pregnant sows were randomly divided into three equal treatment groups (n = 10): control, pine wood, and scented wood groups. Interestingly, compared with the control group, the sows in the pine wood or scented wood groups showed less ventral lying and more lateral lying behavior (p < 0.01), coupled with significant reduction in the frequency of scratching and sham-chewing (p < 0.01), but with no significant difference in the degree of preference for these enrichment items (p > 0.05). Additionally, the sows in the pine wood or scented wood groups also decreased significantly in the concentration of immunoglobulin A (IgA) (p < 0.01) and the concentration of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (p < 0.05) throughout the late pregnancy period. Overall, adding enrichment items to confinement stalls can alleviate the chronic stress and the stereotypic behavior of sows, suggesting their potential to reduce welfare compromise.