Investigations of lying behavior of piglets in a preference farrowing pen with two nest areas (warm water bed vs. reference system) by The Observer / Video Tape Analysis System

S. Hoy and M. Ziron

Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Germany


In the Institute of Animal Breeding and Genetics of Justus-Liebig-University Giessen a new heating and nesting system for piglets during suckling period was developed - the warm water bed. The advantage of this system could be that the piglets can lie on a warm and soft material according the species-specific demand.

Investigations were made in several rounds in an enlarged farrowing pen with two heating systems - the new warm water bed for piglets versus electrical infrared lamp with gum mattress or heated plastic plate. The piglets had the possibility to choose for lying between warm water bed or the other nest area. After every round the position of both heating systems was changed (warm water bed in the corner and other nesting area in the middle of the pen and vice versa). Once a week during suckling period (up to the 28th day of age) behavior of piglets in choice test was recorded by infrared camera and time-lapse VCR during 24 h. After recording, time codes were added the video tape by a time code generator box to use The Observer / Video Tape Analysis System for utilization. The number of piglets lying in one of the two nesting areas was counted and the time (begin, end) of every lying event over a 24 h period was registered.


Ethological investigations showed that the warm water bed is preferred by piglets in a very high percentage. Between the 3rd and 5th day of age, the warm water bed is used by piglets for lying from 76 to 78 percent in 24 h (more than half of litter is lying on bed at same time). Only one percent in maximum (of 24 h period) the other nest area is selected by piglets for lying. The other time piglets have sucked or played in the pen. The position of warm water bed in the farrowing pen (corner or in the middle of the pen) had no influence on lying behavior of piglets. With increasing age of piglets, the duration of lying on warm water bed decreased with a wide variance between rounds. The percentage of locomotion and playing increases with increasing age. Between the 15th and 19th day of age piglets have spent 36 to 75 % of time (in 24 h) lying on the warm water bed. Piglets have used the other system for laying only up to 6 %.


The warm water bed is a new heating system and nest area for piglets which is in conformity with the species-specific demand for lying place (warm, soft). It is chosen by piglets for lying in a significant percentage compared to the traditional lying place.

Poster presented at Measuring Behavior '98, 2nd International Conference on Methods and Techniques in Behavioral Research, 18-21 August 1998, Groningen, The Netherlands

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