Prepartum nest-building has an impact on postpartumnursing performance and maternal behaviour in earlylactating sows.

Yun, J., Swan, K-M., Farmer, C., Oliviero, C., Peltoniemi, O., and Valros, A. (2014). "Prepartum nest-building has an impact on postpartumnursing performance and maternal behaviour in earlylactating sows.", Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 160, pp. 31-37. doi : 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.08.011  Access to full text

Abstract

The effects of facilitating prepartum nest-building (NB) behaviour, by providing abundant nesting materials, on postpartum maternal characteristics in early lactating sows were evaluated. A total of 35 sows, approximately seven days before the expected parturition date, were housed in: (1) CRATE (N = 11): the farrowing crate closed (210 cm × 80 cm), with provision of a bucketful of sawdust, (2) PEN (N = 12): the farrowing crate opened, with provision of a bucketful of sawdust, and (3) NEST (N = 12): the farrowing crate opened, with provision of abundant nesting materials. Plasma samples were collected from sows, via an indwelling catheter on days −3, −2, and −1 (parturition being day 0) for oxytocin (OT) and prolactin (PRL) assays. Prepartum NB behaviour was observed in sows for a 20 min period for each hour from 18 h to parturition until birth of the first piglet. This NB behaviour included pawing, rooting and arranging nest material. The potential interactions between NB behaviour and postpartum maternal characteristics were investigated. The longest duration of NB behaviour was observed in NEST, followed by PEN and CRATE sows respectively (P < 0.0001), and this duration tended to be correlated with prepartum OT in sows (rs = 0.20, P = 0.05). Both prepartum OT and PRL concentrations were greater in NEST than in CRATE and PEN sows (P < 0.05). An interaction existed between OT and PRL concentrations (r = 0.26, P < 0.01), and PRL increased as the parturition date approached (P < 0.0001), whereas prepartum OT did not differ between days. Total duration of prepartum NB behaviour was positively correlated with postpartum carefulness of sows when lying down (rs = 0.52, P < 0.01), and negatively correlated with the average duration of successful nursing bouts in early lactation (rs = −0.42, P < 0.05). In conclusion, it appears that NB behaviour in prepartum sows could be enhanced by the provision of nesting materials. This, coupled with elevated OT and PRL concentrations, could result in improved postpartum nursing performance and maternal behaviour in early lactating sows.

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