Variation in sow behavior may be more important than piglet behavior in trying to reduce crushing losses the first 72 hours of the piglet's life, according to a research study from Iowa and Texas animal scientists.

Preweaning piglet crushing losses cost an estimated $100 million/year.

Better understanding of the behavioral consequences that piglets and sows engage in prior to crushing may help develop system designs that enhance the well-being of the compromised piglet.

This study compared behavior (nursing) and postures (active and inactive) for piglets during the first 72 hours after farrowing when housed in an outdoor farrowing hut.

No differences were found in the behavioral activities of outdoor, loose-housed piglets that resulted in death by crushing in the first three days after birth. Therefore, researchers concluded, the sows' behavior is a more significant cause of piglet crushing than variation in piglet behaviors.

A plastic shed inside the central hub area of the farrowing pasture housed four, time-lapse video recorders to capture farrowing activities inside four farrowing huts.

Eight PIC Camborough-22 litters were used for behavioral comparisons for piglets in a litter where the dam killed a piglet or did not kill a piglet over the first 72 hours after farrowing.

Researchers: J.R. Garvey, A.K. Johnson, A.J. Holliday, L.J. Sadler and K.J. Stalder, all of Iowa State University, and J.J. McGlone of Texas Tech University. Contact Johnson by phone (515) 294-2098, fax (515) 294-4471 or e-mail johnsona@iastate.edu.