Rooting and lick blocks on trial: peace and quiet in the pig shed
The list of toys and tools used to keep pigs occupied is extensive and covers everything from balls and wooden blocks to rubbing posts. But however effective these or similar materials are when first introduced, their appeal usually wears off quickly. This was reason enough for AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG to undertake intensive trials and development work in order to offer pig farmers product solutions which will retain their animals’ interest over the long term.
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Healthy and fast growing animals are essential to viable and sustainable pig production. Many factors can influence this, and these will vary from farm to farm. Apart from the animals’ genetic make-up and the feed plan, there are other factors which can have a significant effect on the animals’ health and well-being: so-called environmental factors such as stocking density, the concentration of harmful gases, air temperature in the shed, relative humidity and the lighting – and also the availability and type of toys and distractions.
Environment enrichment for pigs
The topic of enriching the environment of the pig shed with toys and other distractions has taken on more importance in the light of the current German regulations covering animal welfare and production animals and the provisions of the QS system; it is also playing an important role in other countries such as Great Britain, in the context of cannibalism prevention. “Pig farmers in Great Britain agree that tail biting is multifactorial in origin – it’s triggered by a variety of factors,” says Dr Peter Rösmann, Product Manager for Pigs at AGRAVIS Raiffeisen AG. The basic principle is that the domestic pig exhibits very similar rooting behaviour to its ancestor, the wild boar. With this is mind, there is a “tried and tested method for reducing tail biting, namely to create an attractive environment for the pigs,” advises Rösmann. This is the context in which the Crystalyx Piglyx rooting and lick block was developed in Germany.
Positive results from Great Britain
Caltech distributes Crystalyx Piglyx in Great Britain and has conducted a number of studies at pig farms across the country. They covered both breeding and fattening units. “The results in Great Britain speak for themselves, and strongly support the use of Piglyx,” Rösmann concludes. Access to the organic Piglyx block made younger pigs appear much calmer and produced a long-term reduction in the incidence of cannibalistic attacks in the later stages of growth and fattening.
Sharp decrease in aggression and restlessness
Using the rooting and lick block gave new hope to a farm which had experienced problems with flank and tail biting: while flank and tail biting problems continued in the test pens, the pens provided with Piglyx saw the incidence of flank or tail biting disappear almost completely. The trial was repeated with the same result. At another farm with a huge cannibalism problem, the rooting and lick blocks were offered to pigs from the time they were moved into the fattening shed to a week prior to slaughter. There was no incidence of cannibalism in any of the pens where the licks were available. On the trials farms in Great Britain, the use of Piglyx led to a sharp decrease in aggressive and restless behaviour among pigs. The farmers there reported that the rooting and lick blocks significantly reduced or completely prevented the occurrence of tail biting in around three-quarters of cases.
More information about these trials is available from Crystalyx Products GmbH or directly from Dr Peter Rösmann, tel. +0049 251 682-2262, firstname.lastname@example.org.