Neubauer, T., Betts, T., Evans, C. 2011. The use of enrichment to facilitate data collection in a pig study. American Association for Laboratory Animal Science [AALAS] Meeting Official Program, 762-763 (Abstract #P80).
Recently a researcher approached our large animal facility manager about housing 19, 2-mo-old piglets and assisting with data collection. Part of the protocol required that the piglets be fed an individually measured high-sugar/high-fat diet over a period of 16 wk. The piglets would also need to be weighed once weekly, a duty that he reported took him 3 to 4 h/wk. We were already short staffed and wondering how we would be able to take care of the piglets and collect the data needed for the study. The use of positive reinforcement training to reduce stress and facilitate voluntary cooperation in laboratory animals is well documented. Knowing that pigs are very intelligent animals, we decided to train the pigs to walk about 45 ft from their holding room, down the hall and get on the platform scale. After identifying a palatable treat that would not interfere with the study, we offered the piglets a sugar wafer in their runs daily for 3 d. For the next 2 wk we led each pig down the hall until they reached the scale while enticing them with the sugar wafer. After just 2 wk of training, all 19 pigs run down the hall and stand on the scale where they enjoy about half of a sugar wafer while their weights are being recorded. The positive reinforcement training was a stress free, positive experience for the pigs and the technicians, as well. This task is now accomplished in less than 30 min and the fast-growing piglets seem to enjoy their run down the hall.