Swine have a number of intriguing behavioral traits that challenge animal enrichment plans. They are intelligent and social animals; they will associate by choice with particular individuals. Housing should be structured to allow this association and choice. Animals will naturally identify different functional areas if enough space is provided. If swine must be individually housed, developing a relationship with caregivers becomes more important, as does the ability to hear and smell other animals.
Occupational swine enrichment includes opportunities for exercise, foraging, exploration and manipulation. Providing a substrate to support foraging not only encourages natural behaviors, it also prevents many unwanted behaviors including damage to housing. Straw mixed with chewable or ediable items encourages the animal to explore its surroundings. Foraging also occupies time and tends to maintain the animal’s interest over the long term. Bedding also provides warmth during cold seasons and a more comfortable resting surface. Mats can also be used to provide a more comfortable resting surface.
In breeding situations, providing earth or sand substrate and twigs, straw and other nesting materials encourages nest building, another natural behavior. There is some evidence that this may contribute to piglet survival
Pigs enjoy environmental enrichment items that can be chewed and destroyed. If indestructible items are presented they need to be changed out periodically to minimize boredom. Environmental enrichment items designed for destruction can hold treats; the animal will focus on retrieving the treat until successful.
In group housing situations, be sure to provide multiple items with treats to minimize aggressive behavior.
In the absence of enrichment , the signs of stress in swine include aggression, fear, ear and tail biting and destructive behaviors.
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