Sow lying behaviors before, during and after farrowing

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Lao, F.
Brown-Brandl, T.
Teng, G.
Liu, Kai
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Xin, Hongwei
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Piglet pre-weaning mortality remains a considerable challenge for the swine industry, representing one of the key areas where animal well-being and economical interest coincide. Sows and piglets carry out a complex series of behaviors during the farrowing/lactation period. These behaviors during the first few days after parturition are extremely important for piglet survival, and they can be greatly impacted by the farrowing system, environment, and/or management. The risk of sow crushing is much greater for piglets when the sow changes her postures. Limited studies have investigated the effects of environment on sow’s posture changes or basic understanding of sow’s lying or other behavior patterns. Using a computer vision and analysis system, this study aims to characterize sows’ postural behaviors before, during and after farrowing to ultimately reduce pre-weaning piglet mortality and to understand the relationship between placement of localized heat source (heat lamp) and its impact on sows’ lying preference, if any. Analysis of data with 15 sows thus far reveals the following preliminary observations. The sows do not seem to have a preference of lying on one side vs. the other before farrowing regardless of absence or presence of a heat lamp on the side. However, heat lamp in the creep area significantly affects the sows’ lying side in the first 3 days after farrowing. Interestingly, the lactating sows demonstrated the postural behavior of facing more of her backside toward the heat lamp relative to before farrowing. Such a behavior would not be in the best interest of the piglets’ well-being. The presence of heat lamp during the lactation period seemed to have some carryover effect on the sow’s lying posture when the heat lamp was tuned off with elder piglets. Sows change their behaviors (lying, sitting, standing, and movement) over the farrowing cycle. In particular, sow’s behaviors change sharply 24 h prior to farrowing, making it is possible to predict farrowing time by analyzing the behavioral changes with the automatic tracking system. More data are being collected.


This presentation is published as Fengdan, L. A. O., Tami M. Brown-Brandl, John P. Stinn, Guanghui Teng, Kai Liu, and Hongwei Xin. "Sow lying behaviors before, during and after farrowing." In 2016 ASABE Annual International Meeting, p. 1. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, 2016. doi: 10.13031/aim.20162461921. Posted with permission.