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Animals (Basel). 2016 Mar 17;6(3). pii: E24. doi: 10.3390/ani6030024.

Intermittent Suckling Causes a Transient Increase in Cortisol That Does Not Appear to Compromise Selected Measures of Piglet Welfare and Stress.

Author information

1
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia. D.Turpin@murdoch.edu.au.
2
South Australian Research and Development Institute, Roseworthy Campus, JS Davis Building, Roseworthy SA 5371, Australia. Pieter.Langendijk@trouwnutrition.com.
3
South Australian Research and Development Institute, Roseworthy Campus, JS Davis Building, Roseworthy SA 5371, Australia. Tai.Chen@sa.gov.au.
4
Sunpork Farms, Wasleys SA 5400, Australia. dlines@austporkfarms.com.au.
5
School of Veterinary and Life Sciences, Murdoch University, Murdoch WA 6150, Australia. J.Pluske@murdoch.edu.au.

Abstract

This study tested the hypothesis that piglets subjected to intermittent suckling (IS) would show changes in physiological and behavioral indices indicative of compromised welfare in the peri-weaning period. A total of 21 primiparous sows and their litters were allocated to either a control treatment (n = 10) where piglets were weaned conventionally, or an IS treatment (n = 11) where piglets were separated daily from their sows for 8 h starting the week before weaning. Performance, physiological and behavioral measures were taken at various time points during the week before and after weaning. Plasma cortisol levels were higher (p = 0.01) in IS piglets 7 d before weaning. Regardless of treatment, the N:L ratio at 3 d and 7 d after weaning was higher (p < 0.05) than that at 1 d before weaning. The IS piglets ate more creep feed during lactation (p < 0.05), and there was a tendency for the IS piglets to gain more weight between 3 d and 7 d after weaning (p < 0.1). This study showed that, aside from an increase in cortisol at the start of IS, piglets subjected to IS did not display physiological or behavioral changes indicative of compromised welfare.

KEYWORDS:

intermittent suckling; pig; stress; weaning; welfare

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