Rooting

 

Pigs are highly inquisitive creatures. In their natural state they spend most of their active time rooting around the soil investigating its content. They are always looking to see whether there is anything of interest below the surface and are forever searching for food and tit-bits they may find there. Their prime means of investigation is their nose which they use to sniff, smell, root and dig.

 

The deep bed flooring provides a stimulating environment

 

The natural pig farming deep bed system is designed to maximize pig comfort whilst meeting their hardwired needs to root and explore their floor environment with their noses. The natural materials the floor deep litter bed is made from provides the ideal physical enrichment materials to create a welcome and stimulating environment for pigs. It allows for investigation, manipulation and consumption.

 

        Floor comfort

       Soft texture

       Thermal insulation

       Drainage

        Recreational

       Chewing, rooting, foraging

        Nest building material

       When sows give birth

        Dietary

    Consumption of rice husks provides bulk lacking in concentrated processed feeds

       Nutritive value

        Oral behavior direction

       Focus on bedding not biting other pigs!

        Hygiene

       Dry, clean, healthy

        Air quality

       No obnoxious odors

        Health

       No respiratory problems

       No limb injuries due to slipping

       No lameness

       No abrasions or foot injuries

In such a stimulating, pig friendly environment, pig vices such as tail biting, vulva biting are non existent, and even mild aggression is rare. I have yet to experience any issues of pig aggression and would be unaware that pig aggression was an major issue were it not for its prevalence in factory farming systems.

Watch the video clip showing a NPF pig rooting in the pen floor

 

 

Click image to go to video gallery 

 

This is one of our pigs rooting in the corner of our back-yard sty. You can see that the pig is happily rooting away to get to something that smells of interest in the flooring.  Such rooting enjoyment is something the deep bed flooring encourages.

Factory farms have barren floor systems that cause unrelieved boredom, illness and injury

Factory farms have two types of flooring, both highly detrimental to pigs hard wired behavioral needs. Floors are made either of concrete or metal slats. These provide hard unyielding surfaces to lie on, and offer absolutely no opportunity to carry out one of the pigs hardwired behaviors, which is to root. These floors lead to widespread incidences of pig lameness. They cause painful skin abrasions (limb, shoulder and teat) and claw lesions that provide entry points for pathogenic organisms resulting in inflammation and pain. They also result in foot holding issues that cause injury to claws, legs and body. 

 

In the case of concrete, due to the water systems used to flush away excrement, the pigs are forced to sleep on a excreta stained surface, something pigs, given the opportunity avoid (they choose to have a toilet area as far away from their living, lying area as possible). Adding significantly to the problems is that of air quality as the liquidifying of manure creates high levels of ammonia gases. This can cause respiratory problems for the pigs.

 

Both systems, where not totally sealed off from the outside world, attract millions of germ carrying flies (particularly in hotter climates) due to the stench of the excrement and attraction of feed residue, making this a very uncomfortable life for the pig. They also create excellent breeding grounds for bacteria and virus’s that have ample opportunity to mutate into anti-biotic resistant pathogens that can causes devastating disease to both pig and humans.

Effect of environment enrichment on pig aggression

The graph below shows how the level of aggression is reduced the more you have relevant manipulable materials for a pig. The red column indicates the level of mild lesions observed on pigs due to aggressive acts, the blue column indicates the level of pigs afflicted with serious lesions as a result in being in conflict with another pig. As you can see having ample straw on the floor in a pen dramatically cuts the levels of pig aggression a evidences by the level of lesions.

European Union laws to ensure manipulable materials added to pens not being heeded

It is now widely recognized that pigs need to have some manipulable materials to interact with if they are to be reasonably content. European Union (E.U.) law stipulates that manipulable material must be added to pens, yet to date the addition of the straw to fulfill this requirement simply is not happening on any kind of meaningful scale. Non-compliance is rife and at present there is little indication that the E.U. has the will or resources to enforce their own legislation. Even where there is some compliance it is evident that rather than providing straw in sufficient quantity and depth to be of some interest to the pig, what ends up as little more than a  few specks of straw on a bare floor is all that is offered. It's a joke.

Deep bed flooring provides the best pig stimulation

It should also be noted that straw is the manipulable material that the E.U. stipulates that should be added. This is not because pigs inherently want or desire straw to manipulate. They don't. Pig are rooting animals that are irresistibly drawn to soil, mud, surfaces that can be dug through rooting and surface ground water. They have very little natural desire for straw and in the natural environment would totally ignore this material in favour of rooting. This is also the case for pigs being raised in deep bed natural pig farming pens. Certainly adding deep straw to a concrete floored pen is a step up in welfare for a pig in that non-stimulating factory farm environment; it will show some interest, but let's be clear, the use of straw as a manipulable  material is solely because it is readily available and convenient in cost and application for the factory farmers. It does not solve the huge problem of pigs needing meaningful environmental stimulation. And it does not eliminate pig aggression. See natural farming mud bath wallows.

Note: My view on the use of straw as a manipulable material is my own opinion based on observations of the pigs I've raised in our natural farming system. I have yet to see any published research on pig interest in different types of manipulable material other than straw. 

Natural pig farming v factory farming

Deep bedding

Natural  pig farming

Factory farming

Reduces level of bacteria and virus generation activity

Yes

No

Has flooring that provides comfort, thermal insulation and drainage

Yes

No

Provides recreational value: rooting, digging

Yes

No

Allows nest building

Yes

No

Hs nutritive value: it can be eaten

Yes

No

Provide outlet for oral behavior need : no pig vices (biting)

Yes

No

Is hygienic: dry, clean healthy

Yes

No

Ensures high air quality: no obnoxious odors or noxious gases

Yes

No

Does not cause respiratory problems

Yes

No

Has non-slip non injury causing floor surface

Yes

No

Protects pigs from lameness

Yes

No

Is the best pig friendly flooring option available

Yes

No

 

The better way to raise pigs