Paper presented at the 50th edition of the ‘Journées de la Recherche Porcine’ in Paris on 6-7 February 2018.

Effect of enriching the sow environment and diet during gestation on maternal stress and piglet survival

A stressful environment for sows during gestation can increase piglet mortality. The present study aimed to investigate a strategy of environment and diet enrichment to reduce maternal stress and its consequences on piglet mortality. Three treatments during gestation were compared: a conventional system on a slatted floor (C), the same conventional system with environment and diet enrichment (CE), and a system on deep litter and with additional space per sow (L). The enrichment of the CE group consisted of pieces of oak attached to a chain (three per pen) and straw pellets provided in the trough at a rate of 200 g/d from 3-30 days of gestation and 400 g/d from 31-104 days. At 105 days of gestation, all sows were transferred into farrowing pens and housed in identical individual stalls on a slatted floor. In total, 83 Landrace x Large White sows were studied (C: 26, CE: 30, L: 27). Cortisol concentration in sow saliva differed amongst groups but differently according to day of gestation (C=CE>L, C>CE>L and C=CE=L at 14, 105 and 107 days, respectively). At 101 days of gestation, the enrichment reduced sow stereotypies (Lincreased behaviour of investigation (L>CE>C; P < 0.05). Piglet mortality during and within 12 h of birth was lower in groups CE and L (6.6% and 6.3%, respectively) than in group C (11.1% P < 0.05), but overall mortality (from birth to weaning) did not differ among the 3 groups (23.2, 19.1 and 19.3% in groups C, CE, and L, respectively, P = 0.35). Enriching the sow environment and diet during gestation therefore improved sow welfare and reduced piglet mortality at and soon after birth.

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