|Title||Simulating pigs to understand their feeding behaviour and to improve their welfare|
|Author(s)||Boumans, I.J.M.M.; Boer, I.J.M. de; Hofstede, G.J.; Bokkers, E.A.M.|
|Source||In: Proceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at the Farm and Group Level. - Wageningen Academic Publishers - ISBN 9789086863143 - p. 155 - 155.|
|Event||7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level, Ede, 2017-09-05/2017-09-08|
Animal Production Systems
|Publication type||Abstract in scientific journal or proceedings|
|Abstract||The causation of feeding behaviour is known to be a complex interaction among many internal (e.g. metabolism, pig characteristics) and external factors (e.g. feeding system, social interactions). This interaction, however, is not well understood. The aim of this study was to gain deeper understanding of mechanisms and essential factors underlying feeding behaviour of growing pigs under intensive housing conditions. We developed an agent-based model in
which feeding and interaction behaviour of individually and group-housed pigs with a single feeder emerged over the day (per minute) and during the growth period (120 days). We tested the effect of internal factors (e.g. metabolism, circadian rhythms, behavioural strategies) and external factors (e.g. social dynamics and diet characteristics) on emerging feeding and interaction patterns, such as feed intake, meal frequency, feeding rate and displacement attempts.
These patterns were validated by comparing them to those observed in empirical studies with conventionally housed growing pigs in various group sizes. Model results show that hormonal circadian rhythms of melatonin and cortisol interact with metabolism and explain feeding patterns of individually housed pigs over the day. An interaction between pig (e.g. maximum feeding rate) and diet characteristics (e.g. energy level) and group size affects competition between pigs and conflicts around the feeder. Competition level at a certain threshold caused a turning point in behavioural patterns, after which behavioural strategies of pigs (e.g. avoid and approach decisions) explained the direction of change, especially in meal-based (e.g. meal frequency and size) and interaction patterns (e.g. avoidance and displacements). Social facilitation had a limited effect on patterns in the model. The model helps to better understand
mechanisms underlying feeding behaviour in growing pigs and can be used as a tool in further research to understand how housing and management practices, pig characteristics and group dynamics can affect pig behaviour and welfare over time.