Supply of wood as environmental enrichment material to post-weaning piglets
Department of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Systems, University of Firenze, Via San Bonaventura 13, IT50145 Firenze, Italy
Slatted flooring is a common system used for post-weaning of piglets. In this condition of breeding, it is very hard to provide materials for environmental enrichment to enable proper investigation and manipulation activities to improve animal welfare. The research aimed to identify an alternative way to provide natural environmental enrichment during post-weaning on slatted flooring using wood. Core of veneer poplar logs and wood sawdust pressed briquettes were selected among other types of wood thanks to their wide availability and low cost. Moreover, these kinds of wood can be used without compromising the health of the animals, neither by contact nor by ingestion. The most important step of the research was to design systems to make the wood more attractive for piglets. The developed devices consisted of a fixed structural component to be installed inside the pen to which wood materials could be added and replaced quite effortlessly. Three devices were developed: a) horizontal system, b) vertical system, c) pendulum system. They were tested in three different pens, each one with 24 post-weaning piglets. The results confirmed the assumption that there is a relation between the level of activity of the animals and the interaction with the wood proposed in the shape of small logs and briquettes. In particular the device a) can generate a valuable level of interaction of the animals reared inside the pen, especially in the first 10 days post-weaning, which is the most sensitive period for piglets after mixing.