Painful standard management practices with piglets: Does bundling and/ or anesthesia improve animal welfare?

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Newborn piglets are subjected to several painful management practices during their first week of life. The objective of this study was to investigate whether the bundling of these painful management practices as such and in combination with anesthesia influenced the behavior and/or production results of piglets positively compared to a random application. There were 515 piglets included in this study, which consisted of two experiments. In the first experiment, management practices were carried out spread over the first week ("separate" group, n = 168) or bundled at one week of age ("together1", n = 144). In the second experiment management practices were all bundled at one week of age without anesthesia ("together2" group, n = 97), or bundled at one week of age while the piglets were anesthetized with 100% CO2 ("anesthesia" group, n = 106). Behavior of the piglets in both experiments was observed from the day of birth until weaning. Behavioral categories were lying down, udder activity, walking, social cohesion, interactive behavior, pain related behavior and postures (sitting, standing and kneeling). Results demonstrate that piglets seem to cope better with pain if painful interventions are not combined. Moreover, the applied CO2 anesthesia has facilitated the pain experience after treatment, since lying, interactive and walking behavior indicated more discomfort for the anesthetized piglets. Anesthetized piglets had only an advantage when considering nursing behavior. The question remains how aversion against CO2 might have impaired the healing process after castration when combined with other painful interventions. Hence, both farmers and veterinarians, who have to back up farmers for application of painful procedures, should take into account these results in their decision making. © 2011 Beirendonck SV, et al.

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Van Beirendonck, S., Driessen, B., & Geers, R. (2011). Painful standard management practices with piglets: Does bundling and/ or anesthesia improve animal welfare? Journal of Anesthesia and Clinical Research, 2(8), 157.

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