EATING straw can reduce the incidence of gastric lesions which often lead to stomach ulcers in pigs, according to Jonathan Amory, a lecturer at Myerscough College, Lancs.
He found that pigs bedded on straw had a lower incidence of gastric lesions than animals housed on concrete slatted floors. The study, which found gastric lesions in 19% of 800 pig carcasses examined, also indicated that feeding pelleted diets increased the risk of ulcers.
Perhaps the pig industry should take a closer look at the formulation of its standard pelleted finisher diets, suggested Dr Amory.
He had also devised a test to assess the pigs mental state when kept in various forms of housing, to help researchers developing welfare-friendly systems.
His test is based on the theory that pigs which rush up to anyone visiting the pen are lacking in mental stimulation and are, therefore, stressed by their environment. Conversely, animals which stay away from humans approaching the pen could be said to be contented.
"We have found that slatted systems produce pigs which are highly responsive to people, while those on straw-based systems are less interested in visitors," said Dr Amory. *