Monday, 14 March 2016

Animal Behaviour & Welfare Elective - Visit to SRUC Pig Unit

The Final year Vet students, as part of the Animal Behaviour and Welfare Elective, went to visit the SRUC Pig Unit last week with Dr Susan Jarvis.

We covered a huge range of topics in the visit covering housing and management of the pregnant sow, the farrowing and lactating sow, and of growing pigs.  We discussed various aspects of behaviour:  thinking about natural behaviour (e.g nest building) and how this can be inhibited in commercial conditions, how management can impact on behaviour (e.g stocking density and enrichment), and how we can use the behaviour of the pigs in assessing their welfare (e.g. hierarchical issues, lameness etc.). We also talked more globally about the impact of genetic selection, economics and trade on the management of pigs and how this can impact on their welfare. 

The students were fascinated by the way in which piglets develop a teat order (each piglet has their own teat at the udder), that the sow only lets down milk for around 20 seconds every hour (milk let down) and she vocalises to communicate to them that milk is on it’s way – a brilliant evolutionary strategy to ensure all piglets are present and correct at feeding time and that fighting by piglets at the udder is minimised.  Here are those happy piglets in action

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