5 January 1996

EFSpigs not pushy

SELECTING breeding pigs from lines in which growing pigs are performance tested using electronic feeding stations (EFS) fails to cause an increase in aggressive behaviour.

This was the conclusion of researcher Birte Nielsen after three years of pig behaviour studies at the Scottish Agricultural College.

She found that the appetite of growing pigs and the amount of feed eaten was similar whether pigs were fed using single-space electronic feeding stations or had 24-hour access to multi-space feeders.

This belies industry suggestions that pigs fed on EFS systems grew according to social rank and that greedier, more aggressive pigs were being selected. "This shows that breeding companies are not selecting for adverse behaviour," she says. "Commercial producers may still get uneven growth rates through aggression when they fail to provide the right conditions, such as sufficient floor area and trough space."

However decreasing feed access to pigs either by reducing the trough space or fitting an enclosed race in front of the trough was found to modify feeding behaviour. This resulted in pigs making fewer but longer visits to the trough, claims Ms Nielsen.

Increasing group size or lowering protection from other pigs during feeding also increased the speed of eating, she adds. So, feed rate may be an indicator of a stressful environment.

Work was funded by MAFF, Cotswold Pig Development and Hunday Electronics.