Several stressors can impact animal welfare such as:
- hierarchy fights
- high humidity
- poor air quality
- lack of materials for rooting and playing
These stressors can result in an increase in adverse behavioural indicators such as aggression and tail biting (Beattie et al., 1995; Cox and Cooper, 2001; Scott et al., 2006).
In maternity - sows at parturition
Sows can show aggressive behaviour towards their own piglets during or immediately after farrowing, resulting in the injury or death of the piglets (Randall, 1972). Sows with this mothering disability wean almost two piglets per litter fewer than their non-aggressive contemporaries (Knap and Merks, 1986).
In gestation - sows at mixing
Aggression is a common problem because sows are mixed for each gestation. A dominance hierarchy is established through aggressive interactions between unfamiliar sows resulting in:
- Injury e.g. skin lesions, vulva biting, and even lameness (Arey and Edwards, 1998)
- Inadequate feed intake and poor body condition (Kranendonk et al., 2007)
- Poor reproductive performance and reduced pregnancy rate (Strawford, 2006; Spoolder et al., 2009)
Aggression in gestation can be prevented with various management techniques such as mixing sows into large groups (Mendl, 1994) after they become pregnant, separating young sows from mature sows, and providing enough space with straw bedding (Arey and Edwards, 1998; Spoolder et al., 2009) and good quality floors. In terms of housing, rectangular pens are better compared to square or round pen (Barnett et al., 2008).
In fatteners - at mixing
Aggression in fattening pigs has an important impact on growing pigs. Growth performance (Sherritt et al., 1974; Stookey and Gonyou, 1994; Coutellier et al., 2007), immune competence (de Groot et al., 2001; Tuchscherer et al., 1998) and injuries can all impact carcass quality (Turner et al., 2006; Terlous and Rybarczyk, 2008).
Tail biting can be caused by a number of conditions including:
- lack of space
- high stocking density
- inadequate nutrition
- uncomfortable climate
- poor health
- group size
- animal-related factors such as age, sex and tail length (Schrøder-Petersen and Simonsen, 2001; Bracke et al., 2004; EFSA, 2007; Zonderland, 2010; Spoolder et al., 2011).
Tail biting has serious consequences. It represents a welfare problem, causes health problems in victimized pigs such as abscesses, lameness and even death due to cannibalism (EFSA, 2007). Annual economic losses of €8 million have been reported by the Dutch pig sector as being attributed to tail biting (Zonderland et al., 2011). In addition, it reduces job satisfaction for farm workers (Bracke et al., 2004; Workel et al., 2007).
Tail biting can be prevented with management measures such as providing enrichment materials. Tail docking is another common strategy to prevent tail biting (Bracke et al., 2004) leaving less of the tail for other pigs to bite, and the remaining tail stump becomes more sensitive meaning potential victims respond more vigorously when their tails are being manipulated (Simonsen et al., 1991).
In addition to fundamental changes such as housing conditions, nutrition, genetics and management, some plant extracts can help reduce stress and improve welfare.
Sedoline® Powder: supporting animal welfare with natural ingredients
Sedoline® Powder is a complementary dietetic feed that helps reduce behavioural problems through a combination of five natural plant extracts and magnesium.
The plant extracts in Sedoline® Powder promote GABAergic neurotransmission. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that sends chemical messages through the brain the nervous system and is involved in regulating communication between neurons. The role of GABA is to inhibit or reduce the activity of the neurons or nerve cells by modulating dopamine and glutamate neurotransmission.
Magnesium has various effects on stress reduction. It decreases blood cortisol and catecholamine concentrations (Kietzman and Jablonski, 1985; D'Souza et al., 1998; D'Souza et al., 1999), produces visibly calmer pigs after long-distance transportation (Kuhn et al., 1981) and alleviates the acute stress response resulting from handling prior to slaughter (Kuhn et al., 1981; Peeters et al., 2005). Magnesium downregulates the NMDA receptor in the central nervous system ultimately causing stress reduction (Coan and Collingridge, 1985).
Therefore, Sedoline® Powder has a double effect on the central nervous system with regards to stress reduction. The sedative plant extracts activate the inhibitor GABA neurotransmitter (Figure 1) and the magnesium inhibits the excitor NMDA receptor (Figure 2). Easy to use, Sedoline® Powder is incorporated in the feed for three to seven days. Contact your local Huvepharma® representative for more information about dosing and application rates for various groups and situations.
References are available on request.