Monteiro, M. S., Muro, B. B. D., Carnevale, R. F. et al. 2023. The beneficial effects of providing prepartum sows with nesting materials on farrowing traits, piglet performance and maternal behavior: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 259, 105795.
Sows are highly motivated to engage in nest-building behavior prior to farrowing. Studies have shown that providing nesting material to farrowing sows reduces the occurrence of redirected nest-building behaviors, improves farrowing traits and maternal behavior, and decreases pre-weaning mortality. However, in some studies, access to nesting material had no effect on farrowing traits and piglet performance. Further, sow response to nest materials are largely variable among studies, mainly influenced by the type and quantity of nesting material provided and farrowing system. Thus, a systematic review and meta-analysis were carried out to evaluate the effects of the provision of nesting materials on farrowing performance, maternal behavior, and piglet performance. A total of 26 articles met the inclusion criteria. Nest-building behavior was enhanced when nesting material was provided. The systematic review indicates that sows supplied with nesting material had reduced pre-farrowing redirected nest-building behavior and reduced postural changes during farrowing. Sows provided with nesting material had increased nursing bouts and had better response to piglet distress call. An increase (P = 0.03) in the number of piglets born alive were observed for sows provided with nesting material. Provision of nesting materials reduced (P < 0.05) piglet birth interval and pre-weaning mortality. The use of straw or lucerne hay as nest materials reduced (P < 0.05) stillbirth rate and pre-weaning mortality. The use of man-made materials (e.g., hessian, jute, or burlap sacks) tended to reduce stillbirth rate (P = 0.06). Provision of nesting materials had no effect (P > 0.05) on weaning weight. The present study strengthened the hypothesis that provision of nesting material to sows prior to farrowing increases sow maternal care traits and piglet performance.