Effects of tryptophan supplementation on aggression among group-housed gestating sows

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The objective of this study was to determine the effects of dietary Trp supplementation on mixing-induced aggression and the associated stress, and on reproductive performance in gestating sows. After weaning, sows were mixed in pens with electronic sow feeders on concrete-slatted floors. Each pen housed 21±2.8 sows, with approximately 2.7±0.43 m 2/sow of floor space allowance. Multiparous sows (n = 168) from 8 breeding groups were used, with 4 groups assigned to a control diet and 4 groups assigned to a high-Trp diet. Control sows received corn-and soybean meal-based diets throughout gestation (0.15% Trp) and lactation (0.21% Trp). Three days before and after mixing, sows assigned to the high-Trp treatment received approximately 2.3 times the dietary Trp (0.35% in the gestation diet and 0.48% in the lactation diet) fed to control sows. Six focal sows (2 sows from each of parity 1, 2, and 3 or greater) in each pen were designated and videotaped for 72 h after mixing to determine the type and number of aggressive interactions among sows. Before and 48 h after mixing, saliva samples were collected from focal sows, and scratches were assessed on all sows. Data were analyzed using the FREQ and GLIMMIX procedures (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC). Aggression among sows was intense during the initial 6 h and decreased between 6 and 72 h after mixing. The initial aggression caused scratches and increased cortisol concentrations (P < 0.05). Mature sows tended to fight for longer periods (112 vs. 52 s/h per sow, SE = 23.8; P < 0.10) but had fewer scratches caused by aggression (injury score = 4.3 vs. 6.5, SE = 1.13; P < 0.01) than parity-1 sows. Supplementation of dietary Trp reduced the total duration of head-to-head knocking (P < 0.05) but did not affect other aggressive behaviors. There was no difference between dietary treatments in injury scores or saliva cortisol concentrations. Sows in the high-Trp treatment had more total piglets born (12.5 vs. 10.5 pigs/litter, SE = 0.55; P < 0.05) and more stillborn piglets (1.5 vs. 0.8 pigs/litter, SE = 0.20; P < 0.05), but had no significant change (P = 0.12) in piglets born alive (10.8 vs. 9.7 pigs/litter, SE = 0.42) compared with control sows. The results indicate that the initial aggression after mixing caused more injuries in young sows than in mature sows. Supplementation of dietary Trp at 2.3 times the control amount for a short period did not effectively reduce aggression and the associated stress in sows at mixing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1899-1907
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Aggression
  • Gestating sow
  • Group housing
  • Tryptophan


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