One of the most critical welfare issues for the farrowing sow confined in a conventional farrowing crate is her inability to perform satisfactory nest-building behaviours. Regardless of her farrowing environment the sow will attempt to perform nest-building behaviours approximately 16-24h before she is due to give birth.
To see an illustrative video of these behaviours being performed in different farrowing environments please visit Why is Nest-Building Behaviour So Important?.
There has been a great deal of research dedicated to nest-building behaviour and how it affects maternal hormones and maternal behaviour and what materials satisfy this highly motivated and genetically programmed behaviour.
Typical research questions that have been investigated are:
- What is nest-building behaviour?
- How does it influence maternal behaviour?
- What substrates can satisfy nest-building behaviour?
These references are relevant for nest-building research and are arranged in descending date order .
- Rosvold, E.M. and Andersen, I.L., 2019. Straw vs. peat as nest-building material–The impact on farrowing duration and piglet mortality in loose-housed sows. Livestock Science, 229: Pages 203-209. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2019.05.014
- Rosvold, E.M., Newberry, R.C. and Andersen, I.L., 2019. Early mother-young interactions in domestic sows – Nest-building material increases maternal investment. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 219: 104837. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2019.104837
- Bolhuis, J.E., Raats-van den Boogaard, A.M.E., Hoofs, A.I.J. and Soede, N.M., 2018. Effects of loose housing and the provision of alternative nesting material on peri-partum sow behaviour and piglet survival. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 202: 28-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2018.01.004
- Rosvold, E.M., Newberry, R.C., Framstad, T. and Andersen, I.L., 2018. Nest-building behaviour and activity budgets of sows provided with different materials. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 200: 36-44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.12.003
- Swan, K.M., Peltoniemi, O.A.T., Munsterhjelm, C. and Valros, A., 2018. Comparison of nest-building materials in farrowing crates. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 203: 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2018.02.008
- Hansen, C.F., Hales, J., Weber, P.M., Edwards, S.A. and Moustsen, V.A., 2017. Confinement of sows 24 h before expected farrowing affects the performance of nest building behaviours but not progress of parturition. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 188: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.01.003
- Yun, J. and Valros, A., 2015. Benefits of prepartum nest-building behaviour on parturition and lactation in sows—a review. Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences, 28:1519. https://doi.org/10.5713/ajas.15.0174
- Yun, J., Swan, K.M., Oliviero, C., Peltoniemi, O. and Valros, A., 2015. Effects of pre-partum housing environment on abnormal behaviour, the farrowing process, and interactions with circulating oxytocin in sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 162: 20-25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2014.11.006
- Yun, J., Swan, K.M., Farmer, C., Oliviero, C., Peltoniemi, O. and Valros, A., 2014. Prepartum nest-building has an impact on post-partum nursing performance and maternal behaviour in early lactating sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 160: 31-37. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2014.08.011
- Yun, J., Swan, K.M., Vienola, K., Kim, Y.Y., Oliviero, C., Peltoniemi, O.A.T. and Valros, A., 2014. Farrowing environment has an impact on sow metabolic status and piglet colostrum intake in early lactation. Livestock Science, 163:120-125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2014.02.014
- Wischner, D., Kemper, N. and Krieter, J., 2009. Nest-building behaviour in sows and consequences for pig husbandry. Livestock Science, 124: 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2009.01.015
- Algers, B. and Uvnäs-Moberg, K., 2007. Maternal behavior in pigs. Hormones and Behavior, 52: 78-85. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.022
- Damm, B.I., Vestergaard, K.S., Schroder-Petersen, D.L., Ladewig, J., 2000. The effect of branches on prepartum nest building in gilts with access to straw. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 69: 113-124. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(00)00122-2
- Thodberg, K., Jensen, K.H., Herskin, M.S., Jorgensen, E., 1999. Influence of environmental stimuli on nest building and farrowing behaviour in domestic sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 63: 131-144. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(99)00002-7
- Cronin, G.M., Smith, J.A., Hodge, F.M., Hemsworth, P.H., 1994. The behaviour of primiparous sows around farrowing in response to restraint and straw bedding. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 39: 269-280. https://doi.org/10.1016/0168-1591(94)90162-7
- Jensen, P., 1993. Nest building in domestic sows: the role of external stimuli. Animal behaviour, 45: 351-358. https://doi.org/10.1006/anbe.1993.1040
- Zanella, A. J. and Zanella, E. L., 1993. Nesting material used by free-range sows in Brazil. In Proceedings of the 3rd Joint Meeting of the International Congress on Applied Ethology (ed. M Nichelmann, HK Wierenga and S Braun) p. 411.
- Arey, D.S., 1992. Straw and food as reinforcers for prepartal sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 33: 217-226. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0168-1591(05)80009-7
- Widowski, T.M. and Curtis, S.E., 1990. The influence of straw, cloth tassel, or both on the prepartum behaviour of sows. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 27: 53-71. https://doi.org/10.1016/0168-1591(90)90007-Z
- Jensen, P., 1986. Observations on the maternal behaviour of free-ranging domestic pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 16: 131-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/0168-1591(86)90105-X