Impact of housing nursery pigs according to body weight on the onset of feed intake, aggressive behavior, and growth performance
Housing nursery pigs according to body weight is an observed common practice in production systems and, supposedly, improves growth performance and reduces body weight (BW) variation. This 42-day study evaluated the effects of housing nursery pigs according to BW on performance, onset of feed intake, and aggressive behavior. A total of 504 pigs were ranked by BW at weaning and categorized into three groups of 168 pigs each: light, medium, and heavy. Pigs were randomly distributed to unsorted pens (Unsorted) containing 6 pigs of each weight group and sorted pens with 18 pigs from just one group per pen (Sorted). From weaning to day 3, pigs were fed a diet containing 1% iron oxide dye and rectal swabs presenting red coloration were evaluated to assess feed intake onset. Eight pens were video recorded to evaluate aggressive behavior. Sorted-Heavy pigs delayed the onset of feed intake (P ≤ 0.011) and presented more aggressive behaviors than Sorted-Light and Sorted-Medium pigs (P ≤ 0.036). In Unsorted, onset of feed intake showed no differences between weight categories. Also, no differences were observed for aggressive behavior between Sorted and Unsorted. Final BW showed no differences between Sorted and Unsorted pigs. The within-pen weight coefficient variation (CV) was slightly different (P = 0.042) between Sorted and Unsorted pigs (13.3 and 15.6%, respectively), at the end of the study. Thus, sorting nursery pigs by BW did not improve growth performance and also, induce a lag of post-weaning feed intake onset and increased fights in Heavy pigs.
KeywordsGrowth rate Nursery pigs Behavior Housing Bodyweight variability
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Statement of animal rights
The Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul approved the protocol used in this experiment according to the procedure PROPESQ-UFRGS 30545.
- Bruininx, E.M.A.M., Van Der Peet-Schwering, C.M.C., Schrama, J.W., Vereijken, P.F.G., Vesseur, P.C., Everts, H., Den Hartog, L.A., Beynen, A.C., 2001. Individually measured feed intake characteristics and growth performance of group-housed weanling pigs: effects of sex, initial body weight, and body weight distribution within groups. Journal of Animal Science, 79, 301–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Laskoski, F., Faccin, J.E.G., Vier, C.M., Gonçalves, M.A.D., Orlando, U.A.D., Kummer, R., Mellagi, A.P.G., Bernardi, M.L., Wentz. I., Bortolozzo, F.P. 2019. Effects of pigs per feeder hole and group size on feed intake onset, growth performance, and ear and tail lesions in nursery pigs with consistent space allowance. Journal of Swine Health and Production, 27, 12–18.Google Scholar
- Madec, F., Le Dividich, J., Pluske, J.R., Verstegen, M.W.A, 2003. Environmental requirements and housing of the weaned pig. In: J.R. Pluske, J. Le Dividich, M.W.A. Verstegen (eds), Weaning the pig: concepts and consequences, Wagening, 2003, (Wagening Academic Publishers, Wagening, Netherlands), 337–355.Google Scholar
- O’Quinn, P.R., Dritz, S.S., Goodband, R.D., Tokach, M.D., Swanson J.C., Nelseen, J.L., Misser, R.E., 2001. Sorting growing-finishing pigs by weight fails to improve growth performance or weight variation. Journal of Swine Health and Production, 9, 11–16Google Scholar
- Patience, J.F., Engele, K., Beaulieu, A.D., Gonyou, H.W., Zijlstra, R.T., 2004.Variation: costs and consequences. In: Proceedings of the 15rd Banff Pork Seminar, Saskatoon, 2004, (Advances in Pork Production, Canada, Volume 15), 257–266Google Scholar
- Williams, I.H., 2003. Growth of the weaned pig. In: J.R. Pluske, J. Le Dividich, M.W.A. Verstegen (eds), Weaning the pig: concepts and consequences, Wagening, 2003, (Wagening Academic Publishers, Wagening, Netherlands), 17–36Google Scholar
- Wolter, B.F., Ellis, M., Corrigan, B.P., DeDecker, J.M., Curtis, S.E., Parr, E.N., Webel, D.M., 2003. Impact of early postweaning growth rate as affected by diet complexity and space allocation on subsequent growth performance of pigs in a wean-to-finish production system. Journal of Animal Science, 81(2), 353–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar