The rise and fall of the farrowing sow : does communication matter?
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- Master's theses (IHA) 
Piglet mortality is both reducing animal welfare and production yield. A large part of the piglet mortality is due to crushings by the sow, as a direct effect of the sows posture changes. Both frequencies, duration and other quality measures of the sow’s posture changes (e.g. pre-lying behavior through communication with piglets) would therefore affect crushings. The purpose of this study is to investigate if and how the sow-piglet communication and the sows posture change is affected by different pen types, and if this in turn affects piglet mortality. In this study 24 healthy Landrace × Yorkshire sows were included, 12 from a traditional pen and 12 from the UMB-pen (a prototype design-pen), with parities from 1-4 (1.8±0.20). The sows where recorded on video from prepartum and until 12 hours postpartum. The video material was analyzed for sow-piglet communication and postural changes. A significant difference in activity level was found between comparing prepartum, farrowing and postpartum, with multiparous sows showing more posture changes. A significant difference in activity level was found between comparing prepartum, farrowing and postpartum, with multiparous sows showing more posture change prepartum than primiparous sows. There were few significant differences between the pens, with only more time spend on standing to lying in the UMB-pen than in the traditional pen. The posture parameter best explaining crushings in the present study was the averages time the sow spent standing. Crushing could also be explained by an increased frequency of sitting. Posture changes was also associated with communication. Primiparous sows communicated more, and more communication were performed in the UMB-pen. Frequency of standing to lying by the sow was positively correlated with sow-initiated communication, again positively correlated with crushings. But, when investigating communication effects on overall mortality, the best parameters to explain that was actually piglet-initiated. Increased communication by the piglets reduces mortality, which could both be due to reduced amount of crushings with increased orientation by the sow, or reduced mortality of other causes, e.g. starvation and hypothermia.