12 May 2000

Pinpointing aggression

GILTS which are more likely to savage their piglets may be identified through their nest-building behaviour, according to a SAC, Edinburgh, study.

Researchers Steven Appleyard and Alistair Lawrence videotaped 96 gilts in their farrowing crates for 24 hours before they gave birth.

The results show that gilts going on to savage piglets started nest-building activity much later. This activity included snuffling at the floor and bars, and pushing straw around.

These gilts were still active four hours before beginning farrowing, while those less likely to savage piglets were lying quietly on their sides.

In a report in New Scientist, the researchers suggest this shows gilts were unprepared for birth physiologically and behaviourally, and vented their anger on the piglets.

Close monitoring may allow high risk sows to be identified and their piglets to be removed before they attack, they add. &#42