Publication details

Summary

This chapter primarily compiles work in which the author (Marc Bracke) has been involved with providing science-based decision support on the question of what is proper enrichment material for intensively-farmed pigs as required by EC Directive 2001/93/EC. Proper manipulable material should primarily provide occupation (i.e. reduce boredom), and preferably reduce tail biting.
The RICHPIG model was built expressing enrichment value as a score on a scale from 0 to 10. Metal objects like short metal chains had the lowest score. Subsequently, the Dutch government banned the use of metal chains and most Dutch pig farmers attached a hard plastic ball or pipe to the prevalent, short metal chain. Unfortunately, our on-farm observations repeatedly suggested that this enrichment may have reduced pig welfare, rather than improving it as intended by the Directive. So-called AMI (animal-material interaction) sensors can be used to (semi-)automatically record object manipulation by attaching a motion sensor to hanging objects. AMI-sensors may provide objective, flexible and feasible registration tools of enrichment value, but their application is still rather demanding. Exploratory data are presented to demonstrate the utility
of AMI-sensors. The enrichment value of short metal chains can be improved upon, e.g. by providing branched chains. This entails making chains longer, preferably reaching until the floor, and making them more readily available in a pig pen. To facilitate the process towards proper enrichment the principle of intelligent natural design (IND) is proposed. IND entails organising a repeated
selection process of the (currently) best-available enrichment material so as to gradually reduce pig boredom and enhance the opportunities for the rearing of pigs with intact tails. IND should start with basically all pig farmers implementing promising enrichment like the branched-chain design on their farms as soon as possible, followed by conducting small-scale on-farm experiments to compare and improve enrichment through sharing of available
knowledge. Suggestions are given as to how and why this novel approach can be
implemented to solve persistent animal-welfare problems like providing proper enrichment for intensively-farmed pigs.