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Lene Juul Pedersen

Inclusion of poplar trees in pasture-based pig systems to reduce the heat load of lactating sows during hot periods.

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/proceedingConference abstract in proceedingsResearchpeer-review

On a global scale, the demand for organic pork is increasing. Organic pig production is associated with positive aspects such as animals being able to perform species-specific behavior, and a low use of antimicrobics. However, the current Danish organic production system with sows on grass-clover pastures poses animal welfare challenges during the hot season as indicated by a recent pilot study we did where 85% of sows were severely sunburned on ears. In the pasture-based system, the farrowing huts are the only possibility for sows to seek protection from the sun. Studies indicate that during hot days, the huts may reach temperatures exceeding the level of sow thermal comfort zone and there is a need for providing sows with alternative shading possibilities. The aim of this study was to investigate whether access to poplar trees could reduce the heat load of lactating sows. We investigated two different pasture-based systems in which each sow had access to an area with either no tree s or 32 trees. Sow sunburn was assessed on different body parts as: 1. no sunburn; 2. visible redness of skin; 3. severe redness of skin; 4. visible wounds or flaking skin. In addition, sow respiration frequency was recorded on day two prior to expected farrowing until day seven post farrowing. Fifty-eight sows were observed during summer 2015 and 20 sows during winter until autumn 2017. Preliminary results show that during the summer 2015, sow respiration rate was lower in the area with poplar trees compared to the farrowing hut (30 and 46 breaths per 60 seconds, respectively). However, of sows with access to poplar trees 44.4% had visible wounds and flaking skin on ears and 14.1% severe redness of ears. We suggest that inclusion of trees in pasture-based systems represents an area with reduced heat load but the amount and/or location of trees were not able to prevent severe sunburn.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level proceedings
Number of pages1
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Publication year5 Sep 2017
ISBN (print)978-90-8686-314-3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sep 2017

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