Sundman, E. R., Gabler, N. K., Millman, S. T. et al. 2022. The use of attractants to stimulate neonatal piglet interest in rope enrichment. Animals 12(2), 211.
In the United States swine industry, preweaning mortality represents the highest mortality rate of any production phase, nearly half attributed to crushing. The overarching aim of this study was to determine if enrichment ropes would entice neonatal piglets away from the sow and reduce preweaning mortality. Rope enrichments were provided to 161 piglets from 26 sows after farrowing. Ropes were dipped in sunflower oil (n = 7), semiochemical (n = 8), or milky cheese (n = 11). Piglet purposeful rope investigations, weight gain, and mortality were recorded. On Day 2, 75% of piglets touched the enrichment at least once, and frequency ranged from 1 to 21 investigations across all treatments. Frequency (p = 0.20) and duration (p = 0.21) of investigations were not affected by treatment. Preweaning litter average weight gain did not differ between treatments (p = 0.71). MC (milky cheese) piglets had the lowest percent mortality when the enrichment ropes were present (Days 2 to 5, p = 0.01), and SC (semiochemical) piglets had the lowest percent mortality after the enrichment ropes were removed (Days 6 to weaning, p < 0.0001). This proof-of-concept study highlights the potential value of neonatal piglet environmental enrichment.