Table of Contents
ISRN Veterinary Science
Volume 2013, Article ID 389186, 9 pages
Research Article

Cognitive Enrichment in Piglet Rearing: An Approach to Enhance Animal Welfare and to Reduce Aggressive Behaviour

1Institute for Animal Hygiene, Animal Welfare and Farm Animal Behaviour, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Bünteweg 17p, 30559 Hannover, Germany
2Measure, Model & Manage Bioresponses (M3-BIORES), Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Kasteelpark Arenberg 30, 3001 Leuven, Belgium
3Department of Veterinary Science and Technologies for Food Safety, Faculty of Veterinary Science, Via Celoria 10, 20133 Milano, Italy
4Fancom Research, Industrieterrein 34, 5981 Panningen, The Netherlands

Received 31 May 2013; Accepted 19 August 2013

Academic Editors: D. Barnard and M. H. Kogut

Copyright © 2013 Lilia Thays Sonoda et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


It is known that pigs raised in enriched environments express less aggressive behaviour. For this reason, a new method of cognitive environmental enrichment was experimented at the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany. In the first phase, 78 suckling piglets were trained to learn the link between a sound given by an electronic feeder and a feed reward in the form of chocolate candies during a period of 8 days. In the second phase, the same piglets were used in resident-intruder tests to verify the potential of the feeding system to interrupt aggressive behaviour. The analysis of all training rounds revealed that piglets learned the commands during 8 days of training and the interest of the piglets increased within training days ( ). In the resident-intruder test, 79.5% of aggressive interactions were broken by feeder activation. In interactions where either the aggressor or the receiver reacted, a high number of fights were stopped (96.7% versus 93.1%) indicating that it was not relevant if the aggressor or the receiver responded to the feeder activation. We conclude that the electronic feeding system has the potential to be used as cognitive enrichment for piglets, being suitable for reducing aggressive behaviour in resident-intruder situations.