Use of supplementary tryptophan to modify the behavior of pigs

Yuzhi Li, B. J. Kerr, M. T. Kidd, H. W. Gonyou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Three experiments were conducted to investigate the short-term use of supplementary Trp on the behavior of grow/finish pigs. Three levels of dietary Trp were used, representing the standard requirement for growth (control), twice (2×), and 4 times (4×) the control amount. In Exp. 1, pigs were fed the diets for 7 d, during which observations were made of their general behavior (time budget), aggression within the group of familiar pigs, and response to a startling auditory stimulus. Behavior effects were evident during the period of supplementation for both the 2× and 4× diets. During the treatment period, pigs fed supplemental Trp spent more time lying (P = 0.04) and less time eating (P = 0.05) than pigs fed the control diet. Although the response of the animals to the startling stimulus was to become alert and stand, similar behavioral effects caused by supplemental Trp also were evident after the startling stimulus (P < 0.01). Based on these observations, the subsequent studies retained the same dietary levels of Trp and incorporated a 3-d feeding of diets before behavior testing. In Exp. 2, pigs were fed the experimental diets for 3 d before being regrouped with unfamiliar pigs on the same diet. Subsequent aggression was affected by Trp supplementation, in that high levels of dietary Trp decreased the total duration of fighting by approximately 50% (P = 0.03). Supplemental Trp had no effect on the number of fights, and there were no differences between the 2 levels of supplemental Trp on any behavior. In Exp. 3, pigs were exposed to specific handling tests on the farm and meat quality assessments after being fed the experimental diets for 3 d. There were no differences among dietary treatments for any of the meat quality characteristic variables measured. The only behavioral or physiological difference observed among the treatments was a slower movement of pigs fed the 4× Trp treatment than control or 2× Trp-fed pigs in a minimal-forced situation (P = 0.04). Response to confinement on a scale, an electric prod, and movement in general did not differ among treatments. High levels of Trp may result in animals avoiding stressful situations if possible, but they seem to have no effect on responses to stressors that animals may experience in a forced situation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)212-220
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2006


  • Behavior
  • Handling
  • Pig
  • Tryptophan


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of supplementary tryptophan to modify the behavior of pigs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this