10 April 1998

Natural foraging…

DISPENSING feed on to straw bedding allows sows to express natural foraging behaviour, but increases aggression especially when high fibre concentrate rations are used.

So says SAC pig specialist, Xanthe Whittaker, whose trial, described at the British Society of Animal Science, at ADAS Terrington pig unit found sows fed off straw yard floors face increased competition for food over those in unstrawed yards.

"Feeding off the floor is a typical method for feeding in commercial units, particularly where dump feeders are used. But aggression is increased because feed is quickly concealed in to the bedding," suggested Dr Whittaker.

"It may be better feeding sows on a concrete pad in straw yards – straw shouldnt be ruled out as it can help limit some stereotypic behaviour. Consider restricting access until after feeding to reduce aggression."

However, the MAFF-funded trial found sows in straw yards fed a high fibre diet, 600g unmolassed sugar beet pulp/kg feed, to satisfy appetite were actively more aggressive.

"A high fibre diet could be used to satisfy appetite more quickly over a conventional feed, but it increases the level of feed-related aggression," she adds.