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					The effect of varying lengths of chopped straw bedding on the behaviour of growing pigs
J. E. L. Day1, H. Chamberlain 1, H. A. M. Spoolder1 and S. A. Edwards2
1
  ADAS Pig Research Unit, ADAS Terrington, Terrington St. Clement, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE34 4PW, UK
2
  University of Newcastle, Department of Agriculture, King George VI Building, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK

Introduction Legislation in the United Kingdom states that all pigs should have access to straw or other material or
object suitable to satisfy their behavioural needs (Welfare of Livestock Regulations, 1994). However, the use of straw
bedding has not been universally adopted as its use is incompatible with housing systems which contain perforated
flooring, and 76% of pig producers in the UK currently employ fully- or part-slatted finishing housing systems. The aim
of this study was to investigate whether different lengths of chopped straw would achieve enhancements in pig welfare,
by exploring the possibility that small quantities of chopped straw, in preference to unchopped straw, could constitute
adequate provision in part- and fully-slatted systems, thus avoiding the blockage of perforated flooring.

Materials and methods Twenty-four groups of 10 growing pigs were exposed to one of four treatments in a randomised
block design (N: no straw bedding, F: full length straw, H: half chopped straw, and C: full chopped straw). Both pen-
mate- and straw-directed behaviours were recorded using time and ad libitum sampling in weeks one, four, seven and
ten of the trial. The time sampling of behaviour involved observing the four focal animals within each group concurrently
for 60 minutes. Within this observation period, and at exactly five minute intervals, the behavioural element which each
focal animal was expressing was noted such that 12 samples were collected per animal. These observations were
conducted either between 1000-1100h, or 1400-1500h, and the overall distribution of observation times was balanced
within each treatment. The ad libitum sampling of behaviour involved watching a focal animal within a group between
1300h and 1540h for a six minute period and noting whenever it expressed specific behavioural elements. The data were
analysed using repeated measures ANOVA.

Results General levels of straw directed-activity were found to be significantly affected by straw treatments in the ad
libitum sampled data-sets (mean levels of activity were 90.2, 80.7 and 19.3 behavioural events per six minute period for F,
H and C groups respectively; SED=15.18; P<0.001). Activity levels also decreased over time (mean values were 92.9, 73.8,
43.8 and 43.2 behavioural observations per six minute period for weeks one, four, 7 and 10 respectively; SED=10.76;
P<0.001). The level of tail-biting was significantly affected by the straw treatments (mean proportions of active
observations were 0.0000, 0.0001, 0.0007 and 0.0013 for N, F, H and C respectively; SED=0.00043; P<0.005). Interactions
between treatment and week are useful indicators as to when the effects of time (such as those associated with
behavioural development) differ significantly between treatments. There was a significant interaction for aggressive
behaviour where N groups of pigs were most aggressive during week one (Figure 1a), and for nosing where N groups
interacted with other pigs at a consistently higher level than their H, F and C counterparts (Figure 1b).

a)                                                              b)
     Aggression (prop active




                               0.25                                                        0.12
                                                                     Nosing (prop active




                                                                                            0.1
                                                                       observations)




                                0.2
         observations)




                                                                                           0.08
                               0.15
                                                                                           0.06
                                0.1                                                        0.04
                               0.05                                                        0.02

                                 0                                                           0
                                      1   4          7   10                                       1   4          7    10

                                              Week                                                        Week

Figure 1: The interaction between treatment and week on: a) the level of aggression (SED=0.0053), and b) the level of
nosing other pigs (SED=0.0079). Values represent means for N (•), F ( ), H (5) and C (n) respectively.

Conclusions The use of chopped straw in growing/finishing housing systems may be beneficial in reducing the
occurrence of certain adverse behaviours, however, its use in part- or fully-slatted housing systems is inadvisable whilst
there is a possibility that levels of tail-biting may be increased. Furthermore, straw which has been finely chopped is not
able to accommodate many of the behaviours which pigs direct towards longer lengths of straw, and the degree to which
this reduces the efficacy of the substrate in improving welfare remains to be determined.



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Acknowledgements This work was funded by MAFF.

Reference Welfare of livestock regulations. SI No. 2126. (1994). HMSO, London.




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