News 1806 views 1 commentlast update:Feb 25, 2016

Pig aggression can be stopped by using candies

A pig fight can be interrupted by providing more interesting alternatives. In trials in Hanover, Germany, pigs were successfully taught to respond to the sound of a feeder.

The feeder in the experiment at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Hanover, Germany, included chocolate candies.
The research was driven by the knowledge that pigs raised in enriched environments express less aggressive behaviour. The trial consisted of two phases.

In the first phase, 78 suckling piglets were trained to learn the link between a sound given by an electronic dog feeder called MannersMinder and a feed reward in the form of chocolate candies during a period of eight days.

In the second phase, the same piglets were used in resident-intruder tests to verify the potential of the feeding system to interrupt aggressive behaviour.

The analysis of all training rounds revealed that piglets learned the commands during eight days of training and the interest of the piglets increased within training days. In the resident-intruder test, 79.5% of aggressive interactions were broken by feeder activation.

In interactions where either the aggressor or the receiver reacted, a high number of fights were stopped (96.7% versus 93.1%) indicating that it was not relevant if the aggressor or the receiver responded to the feeder activation.

The researchers conclude that the electronic feeding system has the potential to be used as cognitive enrichment for piglets, being suitable for reducing aggressive behaviour in resident-intruder situations.

The research is a part of the international research to Precision Livestock Farming. Earlier research in this project included investigations how pigs exactly behave before they start an aggressive interaction, see also this article.

It also included an in-depth study to causes of tail biting.

Precision Livestock Farming aims to use monitoring equipment in livestock operations to identify developments, label these and act upon them.

One comment

  • W.H.B. van Os

    Note in advance: I might be wrong, because I did not read the article.

    This is a really nice system. Though, it seems that the piglets learn very fast. When a fight starts, the system gets activated and the piglets are treated. I think it should not be excluded that the piglets might learn that fights activate the system and they are rewarded. So in the end the piglets get rewarded for starting a fight. I do not think that this is the purpose of the system.

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