NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare
NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare
(306) 966-7151
WCVM, UofS, 52 Campus Dr., Saskatoon, SK

Goal 2. Play Behaviour

Promotion of play to increase physiological and psychological robustness

Play is expressed in pigs in the absence of fear, pain, and illness and therefore the expression of play suggests that welfare is good. Play is also a natural behaviour that helps in the development of social skills and preparing for unexpected events. Enhancing play behaviour during critical periods of early life development could be used to produce pigs that are more socially tolerant and less fearful of novelty. If play is enjoyable and rewarding to pigs, performance may support greater positive mental states, contributing to the quality of life in pigs. While it has been possible to induce greater expression of play in pigs, little is known about the most effective means to promote play under commercial husbandry conditions, and additionally, whether it is possible to support play expression in older pigs, beyond the period of natural expression (four to 12 weeks). This research explores the ability of both environmental and cognitive enrichment to stimulate play and positive affect in pigs reared in intensive husbandry systems. The biological response of pigs will be measured to determine if the promotion of play can help to support resilience to stress and disease. The ability of play to increase positive emotional well-being in farmed swine will be evaluated through measures of affective state.

Importance of the work

Identifying methods to effectively stimulate play behaviour in growing pigs, as well as the potential physiological benefits will expand our current understanding of swine welfare into the realm of supporting positive experiences in pigs, and the factors that affect it throughout the production cycle. This knowledge will improve pig welfare in commercial husbandry conditions and may improve production performance.

Research Projects
Selected Publications