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Pigs prefer to look at 'companions'Pigs prefer to look at 'companions'

Scientists find that pigs prefer to be in pens with mirrors, rubber mats and view of other pigs.

June 13, 2017

1 Min Read
Pigs prefer to look at 'companions'

What a pig sees when it looks into a mirror may help researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) improve livestock housing.

Animal scientist Jeremy Marchant-Forde and his colleagues at the ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit in West Lafayette, Ind., study livestock behavior, stress and other well-being and production factors. Improving an animal's environment can reduce stress, which, in turn, may enhance well-being, growth and efficiency and decreases disease susceptibility.

In a study, Marchant-Forde looked at different types of pig pens. Pigs had access to either a standard pen with a metal floor (the control pen), one with a rubber mat on the floor, another with a mirror or a fourth with a view of another pig across a passageway.

Pigs preferred spending 40% of their time in pens where they could see another pig. They spent 10%, 20% and 30%, respectively, in the control, mirror and mat pens.

In a second experiment, scientists examined which pens pigs preferred when a person was present. When a person was in sight, pigs spent nearly 90% of their time in either the pen with the mirror or where they could see another pig. Marchant-Forde hypothesized that pigs saw their reflection in the mirror as a companion; however, more research is needed for confirmation, ARS said.

Having mirrors in a commercial production, where pigs are kept in groups, would not be feasible, Marchant-Forde noted. However, producers could consider using rubber mats to help improve the pigs' environment, which may help reduce stress and promote health and productivity.

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