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Research article2015Peer reviewedOpen access

The effect of farrowing environment and previous experience on the maternal behaviour of sows in indoor pens and outdoor huts

Wulbers-Mindermann, Margret; Berg, Charlotte; Illmann, G.; Baulain, U.; Algers, Bo


Outdoor farrowing huts facilitate a less restricted maternal behaviour in sows compared with sows kept indoors in farrowing pens. The aim of our study was to investigate whether there are behavioural differences between primiparous sows kept outdoors in farrowing huts and indoors in pens, and whether the maternal behaviour during the second parity, when all sows were kept outdoors in farrowing huts, would differ between sows that have experienced the indoor or the outdoor environment, respectively, during their first parturition. A total of 26 Yorkshire x Swedish Landrace sows were studied. Of these, 11 sows were housed outdoors in farrowing huts during both parturitions (group = OUTOUT). The other 15 sows were kept indoors in a barn with single farrowing pens during their first parturition. During their second parturition, sows were kept outdoors in farrowing huts (group = INOUT). The behaviour was video recorded from 2 h prepartum to 48 h postpartum. The sows' responsiveness to playbacks of a piglet's screams was tested on days 2 to 3 postpartum. Parity 1: during the last 2 h prepartum, OUTOUT sows had a higher proportion of observations in the stemal lying position (P <0.01). During parturition, OUTOUT sows changed posture more often (P <0.05) and were lying less (P <0.05) than INOUT sows. All sows in both groups responded with 'lifting head' towards the playback of piglet scream, whereas 100% of OUTOUT sows and only 43% of INOUT sows thereafter were 'getting up' (P <0.01). Parity 2: There were no behavioural differences between INOUT and OUTOUT sows. In conclusion, it is not problematic for a second parity sow with initial maternal experience from an indoor farrowing pen to be kept outdoors in farrowing huts during its following farrowing.


sow; housing; parity; maternal behaviour; farrowing

Published in

2015, Volume: 9, number: 4, pages: 669-676
Publisher: Cambridge University Press (CUP)