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Maternal responsiveness of outdoor sows from first to fourth parities.

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Title: Maternal responsiveness of outdoor sows from first to fourth parities.
Author: Mason, G.J.; Mendl, M.; Held, S.
Abstract: Sows of indoor breeds are well known to differ in the speed and strength with which they respond to a piglet trapped under their bodies. There is also evidence from two previous studies that a sow’s responsiveness to playback of a simulated trapped piglet scream is related to the number of crushed piglets in her litter. This raises the possibility of using responsiveness in the Piglet Scream Test as a measure of mothering ability in commercial pigs. In outdoor sows, piglet losses due to crushing are thought to be even higher than in indoor sows, yet comparatively little is known about the maternal responsiveness in these animals, or about its relationship to piglet mortality. The present study therefore investigated the behaviour of outdoor sows in the Piglet Scream Test and a piglet handling test. Its main aims were to investigate changes and individual consistency in test responses over several parities, and the relationship between a sow’s behaviour in these tests and the survival of her piglets under commercial outdoor production conditions. Data were collected for first to fourth parities on 41 Landrace/Duroc X Large White sows kept in individual farrowing paddocks. Data from second and third parities had to be combined because of data losses incurred by severe floods in 2000 and the UK Foot and Mouth Epidemic of 2001. Tests of maternal responsiveness comprised a Piglet Scream Test on Day 5 or 6 post-partum and a test of the sows’ responses to handling of their piglets on Days 1, 9 or 10, and 24 or 25 (Piglet Defence Test). Comparisons within parities revealed that sows responded more strongly and faster to playback of a piglet scream than of a control sound (bird call). Large individual differences were evident in responses in both tests, and there was some evidence for consistency in individual differences across parities. The responses to playback of the piglet scream and control sound were strongly correlated and declined from first to fourth parities, as did the sows’ defensiveness scores. Responses in the two tests were correlated in the sows’ first, but not subsequent parities. There was no evidence for an association between the test responses of the sows and total or live-born mortality levels in their litters which gives some first indication of a potentially limited usefulness of responses in the Piglet Scream Test as measures of mothering ability, at least in outdoor sows on commercial units. # 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/4730
Date: 2006
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Citation: S. Held, G. Mason & M. Mendl (2006). Maternal responsiveness of outdoor sows from first to fourth parities. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 98: 216 – 233.


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