Effects of farrowing system on behavior and growth performance of growing-finishing pigs

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A study was conducted to compare growth performance and behaviors of group-farrowed pigs with those of confinement-farrowed pigs. A total of 216 pigs (8 wk of age) were used, with an equal number of group-farrowed or confinement-farrowed pigs from 1 farrowing batch. Group-farrowed pigs were farrowed in bedded, individual pens and mingled into a group of 8 litters at 12 (±1.3) d of age. Pigs were weaned at 33 (±1.3) d and remained in the farrowing room until 8 wk of age. Confinement-farrowed pigs were farrowed in farrowing crates. At weaning (32 ± 2.0 d of age), confinement-farrowed pigs were mixed and moved to pens of 9 pigs in a confinement nursery and remained there until 8 wk of age. At 8 wk of age, pigs from the 2 housing systems were allocated to 24 pens of 9 pigs in a confinement growing-finishing barn, with 12 pens from each of the housing systems. Within farrowing system, pigs from different groups or pens were mixed upon entering the growing-finishing barn. Individual BW was recorded at allotment (wk 0) to the growing-finishing barn and every 2 wk thereafter for 14 wk. Feed intake and G:F were monitored on a pen basis every 2 wk between wk 0 and 14 of the study period. Behaviors of pigs were video recorded in 6 pens of each housing treatment for 24 h on the day of mixing (d 0), d 7, and d 14 after mixing in the finisher barn. The video recordings were scanned at 5-min intervals to calculate behavioral time budgets for lying, standing, eating, drinking, and belly nosing. Data were analyzed using the Proc Mixed model of SAS with repeated measures. Compared with confinement-farrowed pigs, group-farrowed pigs spent more time lying (85.7 vs. 82.7%; SE = 0.75; P < 0.001) and belly nosing (0.05 vs. 0.02%; P < 0.05) and less time standing (5.8 vs. 7.5%; SE = 0.49; P < 0.01) and eating (7.3 vs. 9.3%; SE = 0.40; P < 0.001). The difference in behavioral time budgets was associated with differences in performance of pigs from the 2 housing systems. Group-farrowed pigs exhibited greater ADG (866 vs. 814 g; SE = 10.3; P < 0.01) for the initial 2 wk after mixing, less ADFI (2,004 vs. 2,188 g; SE = 42.5; P < 0.05), and improved G:F (0.431 vs. 0.393; SE = 0.0078; P < 0.01) for the entire 14-wk study period compared with confinement-farrowed pigs. These results suggest that group-farrowed pigs were more efficient than confinement-farrowed pigs in utilizing dietary energy for BW gain by lying more and standing and eating less during the growing and finishing period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1008-1014
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Behavior
  • Group farrowing
  • Growth performance
  • Pig


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