The aim of the present work was to study nest building, posture changes and the overall activity budget of gilts in pens vs. crates. Twenty-three HB gilts (high piglet survival day 5) and 21 LB gilts (low piglet survival day 5) were video recorded from day 110 in pregnancy to four days after farrowing in either a farrowing pen or farrowing crate. The gilts were provided with 2 kg of chopped straw daily from day 113 of pregnancy until farrowing in both environments. Nest building and other activity measures of the sows were analysed using continuous sampling the last 12 h before the first piglet was born until 8 h after the birth of the first piglet. There was no significant effect of the sows breeding value on any of the sow behaviours. Sows housed in pens spent significantly more time nest building than crated sows from 4 to 12 h prepartum (P < 0.05). Crated sows spent more time sitting (P < 0.01), chewed more frequently on pen fittings (P < 0.001) and showed a higher frequency of quick flops when entering a resting position after farrowing (P < 0.05), but had a lower number of posture changes (P < 0.05) after farrowing.In conclusion, provision of a similar amount of straw does not compensate for the lack of space in the crate compared to the pens. Sows in pens spent more time nest building from 4 to 12 h post partum compared to crated sows, and crated sows showed more behaviours related to frustration and restlessness.
Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2014, Vol 159, p. 29-33