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.

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Correspondence to F. P. Bortolozzo.

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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.

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Faccin, J.E.G., Laskoski, F., Quirino, M. et al. Impact of housing nursery pigs according to body weight on the onset of feed intake, aggressive behavior, and growth performance. Trop Anim Health Prod 52, 1073–1079 (2020).

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  • Growth rate
  • Nursery pigs
  • Behavior
  • Housing
  • Bodyweight variability