Managing DanBred gilts – Social gilts are productive gilts

Efficient and harmonic breeding animals is not only about the right feeding strategy and reproduction. Breeding animals also need daily handling regarding socialization. Not exclusively in relation to other or older animals in the herd, but also their relationship with humans. Implementing management protocols regarding socialization of gilts will have a great impact on the gilts future reproduction results, longevity and general welfare.

DanBred is developing the genetic potential of positive social behaviour in our pigs, but it is not done with genetics alone. If you want easily managed, calm and sociable DanBred breeding animals in your herd, pay extra attention to the animals. Not only when they enter the sow herd, but also during upbringing or in the quarantine section.

Pigs are social animals which will naturally form matriarchal groups with a social hierocracy. Aggressions are a natural consequence of maintaining hierarchy within the group. But aggressions can also be a consequence of stressful environmental factors. Several aspects in modern pig production can cause aggressive behaviour. By implementing a few but effective management procedures, positive social behaviour among the animals can be promoted.

Pigs react with either fear, aggression or trust according to the way they are treated, and studies have shown that the amount of time spent among the animals has a significant impact on how easy the animals are to handle but will also affect daily gain, feed conversion and reproduction results. Calm and stress-free day to day human interactions with gilts, will not only encourage positive relations between gilts and humans but furthermore improve overall productivity of the gilts.

If you do not have a protocol for the handling of gilts, it is highly recommended to begin planning this.

Minimize fear
Routines in commercial pig production is a major factor. In modern production facilities the pigs have limited flight possibilities and limited influence on the environment. Known routines are of great importance to the animals, why predictability and determination are factors which can help minimize fear and uncertainty with the animals, leading to less aggressions.

The behaviour among animals from high performing herds are characterized by low fearfulness, willingness to approach humans, easily handling and moving as well as calm behaviour. The corresponding employees’ in these herds acts determined and safe as well as acting with predictable behaviour furthermore employees are handling the animals frequently and are talking to and touching the animals – especially in stressful situations.

When entering the pens it is important to let the animals come to you, so the animals will grow accustomed to human contact. Pens should be entered everyday and not only when the gilts need injections or other uncomfortable routines. It is a good idea to let the gilts get used to you by walking next to their heads, so that when they are moved to the mating unit, they do not get stressed every time someone is walking in front of them.

Avoid hard handling
Uncomfortable routines such as injections can easily be adapted by the animals, if combined with pleasant actions such as striking of their body or administration of feed. In order to minimize aggression sudden movements and hard handling should be avoided during stressful conditions. A simple management tip to make vaccination less stressful and maintain a good relationship between the animals and employees is to try use clothes in a different color when doing vaccinations. In this way the animals will associate vaccinations with other people than the regular employees.

Pigs are creatures of habits in general, meaning that the contact between animals and humans should be of similar quality and should be performed after the same basic principals regardless of workload, different staff etc. You should always keep in mind that deviations in protocols can cause stress for the animals.

If you do not have a protocol for the handling of gilts, it is highly recommended to begin planning this.

3 tips from the DanBred Technical Services Team:

  • Make sure that you act determined, steady and safe as well as predictable when in the pens. Regular routines help reduce stress with the animals.
  • Enter the pens every day, talk to the animals and make sure to make positive contact through touching and talking while in the pens.
  • Make uncomfortable routines, such as injections, less stressful: for instance, try changing to a different color clothes before administering vaccines.

Follow DanBred for regular updates on how to manage your hyper prolific DanBred sows and increasing litter sizes. Read more about the studies done on social behavior in gilts here: Manual – Handling Gilts (SEGES)
Did you talk to your gilt today? (PORCUS)



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