Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Are tail and ear movements indicators of emotions in tail-docked pigs in response to environmental enrichment?

Abstract

The inclusion of emotional indicators in farm monitoring methods can improve welfare assessments. Studies in controlled conditions have suggested that increased tail movement is an indicator of positive emotions in pigs, while others have proposed that increased ear movements are linked to negative emotions. This study aimed to investigate these indicators in pig farm conditions to analyze their validity and the effect of enrichment on welfare. Thirty-six pigs received one of the following enrichment materials: straw in a rack, wooden logs, or chains. Behavioral observations were performed by focal sampling. The results showed that tail movement duration was significantly higher when pigs exhibited "high use" (three or more pigs in a pen interacting with the enrichment) than when they exhibited "low use" (fewer than three) of enrichment (p=0.04). A positive correlation was found between tail movement frequency and duration (r=0.88; p=0.02). The increase in tail movement could be considered an indicator of positive emotions in pigs when measured with other categories of indicators. Regarding ear movements, no significant difference was found. Future studies should further investigate these indicators thoroughly, as the results could be useful for improving the assessment of emotions in pigs.