Enrichment for Pigs

Introduction

In 2014 the National Farm Animal Care Council of Canada released an updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs. Included in this are requirements and recommendations for enrichment.

The information presented here is a summary of 'Section 1.8 Enrichment' from the Code of Practice:

Requirements and Recommended Practices

Requirements:

"Pigs must be provided with multiple forms of enrichment that aim to improve the welfare of the animals through the enhancement of their physical and social environments."

Recommended Practices:

  1. "provide continual access to a range of novel suspended toys such as cloth strips or rubber, or straw dispensers, along with free toys on the pen floor in housing where the use of substrates may impede manure management systems."
  2. "provide some type of physical enrichment such as straw, hay, wood, sawdust, mushroom compost, peat or a mixture of such that does not adversely affect the health of the animals when it can be safely used."

Goals of Enrichment

According to the Code of Practice, enrichment enhances the animals' physical and/or social environments thus improving animal welfare. The stated goals of enrichment include:

  • Increasing the number and range of normal behaviours
  • Preventing the development of abnormal behaviours, or reducing the frequency or severity
  • Increasing positive utilization of the environment
  • Increasing the animals ability to cope with behavioural and physiological challenges

Types of Enrichment

The barn environment can be enhanced though several types of enrichment:

  • Social - Direct or indirect contact with other pigs
  • Occupational - Psychological enrichment that provides animals with control or challenges, and enrichment that encourages exercise
  • Physical - Altering the animals enclosures or adding accessories such as objects and substrates
  • Sensory - Visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile and taste stimuli
  • Nutritional - Presenting varied or novel food types, or changing the method of food delivery

Points to Remember

Pigs can quickly lose interest in an enrichment item, and thus the best types of enrichment are complex, changeable, malleable, destructible and are potentially ingestible.

Enrichment materials need to be inspected on a regular basis to ensure they do not cause health problems or compromise food safety.

Providing enrichment objects that are suitable for chewing and/or rooting can help deter pigs from ear and tail-biting, belly nosing and sham chewing.

Enrichment does not need to be expensive, and items can often be made from materials already on farm (chains, cloth strips, hoses, wood, straw, etc.).

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs (2014)


For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
E-mail: ag.info.omafra@ontario.ca
Author: Laura Eastwood - Swine Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 16 November 2016
Last Reviewed: 16 November 2016