Portele, K., Scheck, K., Siegmann, S. et al. 2019. Sow-piglet nose contacts in free-farrowing pens. Animals 9(8), 513.
Nose contact is a frequent form of social behaviour in pigs, but the motivational reasons underlying this behaviour remain unclear. We investigated the frequency, direction and type of sow–piglet nosing behaviour and its association with sow and piglet traits. Social nosing behaviour was recorded by live observations and video recordings in 22 sows and their 249 piglets in free-farrowing pens once weekly during the first three weeks after farrowing (3 times 30 min of observations per litter). Piglet-to-sow nosing occurred on average 32.8 ± 2.35 times per 30 min per litter. Heavier piglets at one week of age nosed the sow more than lighter piglets (p = 0.01). Piglet-to-sow nosing was unrelated to the piglet's sex or teat order. Sow-to-piglet nosing occurred on average 3.6 ± 0.53 times per 30 min, and this was unrelated to litter size. Primiparous sows nosed their piglets more in the second week after farrowing. Litters in which piglet-to-sow nosing occurred more showed less variation in the expression of this behaviour across the weeks. Social nosing between sow and piglets deserves further research to understand the positive implications of this behaviour for sow and piglet welfare.