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Research results on pig enrichment

The research project "New innovations for environmental enrichment on pig farms"
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Plastic tube

Plastic tubes made of medium-density polyethene (PE-MD pipe, formerly also called PEM pipe) are commonly used as piping for drinking water when constructing new buildings. As enrichment material, it turned out to be moderately useful for weaned piglets. It is not recommended for finishing pigs or breeder pigs (pigs over 30 kg in weight), because these larger pigs are strong enough to break some of the pipes, which can fall through the slatted floor, ending up in the manure removal system.

For weaned piglets, 2,5 cm to 3,2 cm is a suitable diameter of pipes, and chain thickness of 3 mm is sufficient for suspending the pieces of pipe. Of the designs tested in the experiments, the best-functioning ones turned out to be a cross hanging from the ceiling and horizontal pipes attached with chains to the metal bars behind pens (see photos). The cross, also known as a "helicopter", has been used in several European countries for some time, while the horizontal model was developed in this project.

To construct the horizontal model, a metal chain is pulled through a pipe that is 60 to 100 cm long, and both ends of the chain are attached to the partitioning between pens. To make it a bit more interesting, one can also suspend shorter pieces of pipe (20 cm) at the both ends of the long pipe. These can be attached e.g. by drilling a hole near the end of the short piece and threading the chain through that too. (This is easier to do if the pipe has a diameter of 3,2 cm as compared to 2,5 cm, but on the other hand the 2,5 cm pipe is easier for newly weaned piglets to take in the mouth.)

Objects made of plastic will function better if  located on the slatted floor, not the solid sleeping area if the pen has one, because manure and urine may start appearing around them.

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