Research: Increasing the piglets' use of the creep area
Combined research from Norway, Czech Republic and the UK investigated how piglets could be stimulated to increase the use of the creep area.
Indoor farrowing systems are based upon the assumption that the newborn piglets will leave their mother after suckling and enter a heated creep area, but newborn piglets are motivated to remain close to the sow.
Several creep area features attractive to piglets were used to attempt to increase time spent in the creep area the first two days after birth and to find out whether increased time spent in the creep area would affect early piglet mortality in farrowing pens.
Forty-six loose-housed sows and their litters kept in individual farrowing pens were subjected to one of three creep area treatments; (1) control, a concrete floor in the creep area, (2) an insulated and soft bedding in the creep area and (3) an insulated and soft bedding in the creep area plus an additional wall to increase the heat conserving capacity in the creep area.
The pens were video-recorded from 0–72 h after birth and analysis was conducted from 08:00 h to 14:00 h and from 20:00 h to 02:00 h on each day.
The attempts to make the creep area attractive did not increase the use of the creep area; piglets in the insulated soft bedding + wall treatment spent less time in the creep area and more time resting near the sow than piglets in the concrete floor and bedding only treatment.
Improving the thermal comfort and increase the layer of bedding in the creep area did not increase time spent away from the sow, nor did it reduce piglet mortality.
Quality of the creep area thus appears to have little impact on piglet survival.
The full research report “Increasing the piglets’ use of the creep area—A battle against biology?” can be obtained from ScienceDirect
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