In their natural environment, pigs love to root and search for food using their snouts. In modern pig production systems, pigs need to be provided with an environment where they can exhibits their natural behaviour.
Pigs housed in non-enriched surroundings can develop abnormal behaviours, referred to as stereotypies. Stereotypies are repetitive abnormal behaviours for example tail-biting and ear-chewing in the pig pens.
A report by BPEX and the University of Bristol identified 3 issues that lead to this type of behaviour:
Boredom – pigs lack sufficient material to root and chew. This can lead to them chewing at pen fittings and each other. Both the tail and ears become targets. The main way to avoid this behaviour is to provide pigs with proper enrichment to root and chew.
Frustration – some pigs are not able to compete with the other pigs to access sufficient levels of food and water. The tail becomes an easy target. Examine the area and ensure that all of the pigs are able to reach the food.
Fanatics – often pigs that had a growth check at weaning are more likely to tail bite. It is important to monitor the situation and keep a watchful eye on these individuals and remove them if tail-biting becomes an issue.
Keeping your pigs occupied by providing environmental enrichment is a proven way to keep pigs happy, thereby reducing the chances of harmful behaviour.
What Exactly is Enrichment?
Pigs by their nature are very curious animals and allowing them to express their natural behaviours leads to a happier life. They love to explore their surroundings and will spend up to 75% of their time burrowing and rooting.
The term ‘environmental enrichment’ is used to describe changes, modifications or additions that are made to the pigs housing environment that allows them to act more naturally; similar to how they would in the wild.
Benefits of Enrichment
An unhappy pig can damage both themselves and other pigs that they are housed with. This can have a negative impact – as the pigs will not perform as well as they should.
There are several benefits of enriching the pig’s environment: