As part of our R&D focus on environmental enrichment, we’ve partnered with the University of Leeds to investigate current knowledge of the benefits of environmental enrichment used for pigs, and to identify where there are potential research areas that need further investigation.
The University of Leeds recently completed a comprehensive review of current and previously published research, looking at over 3,000 published papers to understand what is currently known about environmental enrichment for pigs. They established main conclusions related to straw bedding and toy or object enrichment from the literature review, which are outlined below.
It showed us that there is still much to do in finding out how much enrichment materials pigs should be provided with, when and why.
Some early conclusions suggested that:
1. Providing straw bedding has several benefits. Firstly, at a suitable weight per pig, per day, it can reduce lower leg injuries and can have performance and health benefits to piglets.
Several papers suggested that providing chain and hemp ropes help in pig behaviour with an added benefit of an increase in weight after 24 weeks of age.
2. We know that adding multiple enrichment materials can be one of the factors to decrease the occurrence of tail and ear biting, provided that a sufficient amount of each enrichment material is provided. Just how much and of what type of enrichment is still under investigation.
Undoubtedly though, the most positive impact on pig behaviour and welfare is through the staff who care for their livestock, understanding their needs and making sure they look after them to give them as good a life as possible.