Can Social Network Insights Improve Pig Welfare and Productivity?

11:32AM Nov 12, 2019
( National Pork Board and the Pork Checkoff )

A new study provides insights into pig behavior that could help limit aggression between pigs.

Researchers from the Roslin Institute in the University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies are using social network analysis to gain perspective into how interactions that occur when pigs are mixed with one another affect harmful behavior, a press release said.

Scientists are working to characterize structures of social interaction in pig pens that lead to minimal injuries from fighting. Identification of the roles of individuals in relation to one another and how they impact each other could help develop a new set of characteristic traits to target for minimizing hostile interactions. 

In turn, this can lead to improved health and welfare for pigs and greater productivity for pig farms, the Roslin Institute says. 

“By applying mathematical analyses of social networks to detailed data of individuals’ behavior, we hope to gain insights that will inform farming practices to minimize aggression in pig pens,” says Andrea Doeschl-Wilson, professor at the Roslin Institute.

This study builds on previous research that shows that social interactions that take place within the first day of pigs being housed together can indicate how relationships will develop over the weeks that follow.

The insights, published in PLoS One, revealed that pigs that fought on first meeting but settled into a large clique quickly were less aggressive over the long-term.

On the other hand, pigs that did not interact on first meeting but found themselves in smaller groups showed more long-term aggression.

This research, carried out in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College and Teagasc, received support from the Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Scheme.

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