Social hierarchy and feeder access in a group of 20 sows using a computer-controlled feeder


Twenty pregnant sows sharing a double-entry back-out Pig Code feeder with a similar group of 20 were observed over six 24-h feed cycles by a combination of direct observation and video recording. The group had access to an area of 47 m2. Sows were fed once a day on a pelleted diet and water was continually available. Feeding order was relatively constant from day to day, and was positively correlated with parity. A social hierarchy based on displacements and attacks within pairs of sows was found to be basically linear, with the exception of six reversals of dominance. Social hierarchy was positively correlated with feeding order overall, but this was not the case for the latter half of the feeding order. This was partly due to disruption of feeder use by non-feeding visits made by early-feeding dominant sows. Overall the results showed that older sows with more experience of the feeder in two or three previous parities were higher in the feeding order and social hierarchy than younger sows, and may exclude them from the feeder by repeated non-feeding visits. © 1988, British Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.