Title: Acoustic-reward learning as a method to reduce the incidence of aggressive and abnormal behaviours among newly mixed piglets
Authors: Ismayilova, Gunel ×
Sonoda, Lilia
Fels, Michaela
Rizzi, Riccardo
Oczak, Majeck
Viazzi, Stefano
Vranken, Erik
Hartung, Joerg
Berckmans, Daniel
Guarino, Marcella #
Issue Date: 6-Nov-2013
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Series Title: Animal Production Science
Article number: AN13202
Abstract: The aim of the study was to test whether aggressive actions among piglets could be redirected by an automatically generated sound signal followed by a sweet food reward. Per round, four litters of 25-day-old piglets (BHZP breed) were trained 5 times per day over 8 days to expect a sweet feed reward from a dog feeder after hearing a specific sound. In total 144 piglets in 14 entire litters were trained in five trials. At the end of the training 71% of the piglets were around the feeder 5 s after the feeder sound. After the training period, the piglets were weaned and mixed in two pens, 12 piglets per pen. During 2 days (3 h/day) after mixing two observers (one per pen) hidden behind a wooden wall activated the feeder when aggressive or abnormal behaviour started. A total of 616 aggressive events and 31 incidences of abnormal behaviour (ear biting) were used for the analysis. The logistic regression showed that the type of behaviour had a significant effect on the piglets’ response to the feeder sound (P < 0.001). The results showed the possibility of interruption of the aggressive behaviours such as head thrust [odds ratio (OR) = 0.43], jump on other (OR = 0.56) or attack with bite (OR = 0.61). Ear biting was very unlikely to continue (OR = 0.55). The risk of continuing elevated aggression level behaviours was doubled in the event of chasing (OR = 2.16) and the risk that fight would continue after the feeder sound was released was 7 times higher (OR = 7.89). Categorical analysis showed a significant effect (<0.001) of the time intervals t ≤ 1 s and 1 s < t ≤ 3 s on interruption of aggression by the feeder sound release. The piglets’ response to the feeder sound differed significantly between the experimental days (P < 0.001). On the second day of mixing, the feeder sound interrupted 74.9% of aggressive events, compared with 33.7% on the first day. The results suggest that acoustic-reward treatment can distract pigs from performing certain aggressive behaviours and ear biting in piglets when properly applied in time.
ISSN: 1836-0939
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Division M3-BIORES: Measure, Model & Manage Bioresponses (-)
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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