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Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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Record number 454805
Title (Em)pathetic pigs? : the impact of social interactions on welfare, health and productivity
Author(s) Reimert, I.
Source Wageningen University. Promotor(en): Bas Kemp, co-promotor(en): Liesbeth Bolhuis; Bas Rodenburg. - Wageningen : Wageningen University - ISBN 9789461739964 - 264
Department(s) Adaptation Physiology
Behavioral Ecology
Publication type Dissertation, internally prepared
Publication year 2014
Keyword(s) varkens - sociaal gedrag - sociaal milieu - emoties - diergedrag - dierenwelzijn - diergezondheid - fokwaarde - dierlijke productie - varkenshouderij - pigs - social behaviour - social environment - emotions - animal behaviour - animal welfare - animal health - breeding value - animal production - pig farming
Categories Pigs / Animal Behaviour and Ethology

The welfare, health and productivity of intensively raised pigs may be affected by routine management procedures and the physical environment they are housed in, but also by their social environment, i.e. by social interactions between pen mates. In this thesis, the effect of social interactions on pig welfare, health and productivity has been investigated in several ways. On the one hand, a new breeding method based on interactions, i.e. on heritable effects on the performance of pen mates, was investigated. The effect of divergent selection for a relatively positive or negative indirect genetic effect on growth of pen mates on pig behavior and physiology was studied. On the other hand, it was investigated whether pigs can be affected by (the emotional state of) their pen mates on the basis of two social processes, emotional contagion and social support. Pigs selected for a relatively positive indirect genetic effect on the growth of their pen mates seemed less fearful and less stressed in several novelty tests and they had lower leukocyte, lymphocyte and haptoglobin concentrations compared to pigs selected for a relatively negative indirect genetic effect on the growth of their pen mates. Moreover, it was found that pigs can indeed be affected by the emotional state of their pen mates either in a positive or negative way, which points to emotional contagion, a simple form of empathy, in pigs. Furthermore, evidence for social support has also been found. To conclude, this breeding method may be a strategy to improve the social environment of intensively raised pigs as pigs with relatively positive indirect genetic effects for growth may create a less stressful social environment for themselves. In addition, the welfare, health and productivity of pigs may not only depend on their own emotional state, but also on the emotional state of their pen mates.

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