Wang, C., Han, Q., Liu, R. et al. 2020. Equipping farrowing pens with straw improves maternal behavior and physiology of Min-Pig hybrid sows. Animals 10(1), 105.
This study investigated the effects of two factors, enriched environment (EE) and different crossbreeds, on the maternal behavior and physiology of Min-pig hybrid sows. The analysis was performed on a total of 72 multiparous sows, including Duroc × Min pig (DM), Landrace × Min pig (LM), and Landrace × Yorkshire (LY) sows, using a total of 24 sows per cross. The sows were housed in two different farrowing pens, one with straw (EE) and one without straw (barren environment (BE)). The results showed that nest-building behavior, including the frequency, total duration, and bout duration, was significantly higher in EE sows than in BE sows (p < 0.01). The frequency and duration of prepartum nest-building behavior were higher in DM and LM sows than in LY sows (p < 0.0001). During the first three days postpartum, EE sows spent a shorter time in ventral recumbency compared with BE sows (p < 0.05). The oxytocin (p < 0.05) and prolactin (p < 0.01) concentrations of EE sows were significantly higher than in BE sows; however, the concentration of cortisol followed the opposite (p < 0.01). The concentration of oxytocin was significantly higher in DM and LM sows than in LY sows (p < 0.01). In conclusion, both EE increased the expression of hormones related to parental behaviors and prenatal nesting and nursing behavior of sows. Furthermore, an EE can also reduce stress in sows. Min-pig hybrids may inherit highly advantageous characteristics of maternal behavior of Min-pig sows.