Friday, May 13, 2011
A New Spin on Guinea Pig
That guinea pig in the pet store window isn't just for Susie's birthday anymore. Pig farmers in Australia have been utilizing the little munchkins to help decrease the occurrence of savaging piglets in piggeries.
Quick animal behavior lesson: Savaging of piglets, when a mother pig attacks her piglets usually injuring but sometimes killing them, is a well-documented behavior most often seen in first litter gilts. While it's been genetically selected against in U.S. swine herds, it still sometimes occurs in Australian piggeries. It is thought to be related to the hormones associated with parnutrition and unfortunately there is no vaccination or cure for this horribly bizarre condition.
Back to the guinea pigs - some Australian pig farmers have begun putting guinea pigs in farrowing crates with the mothers prior to birth in order to desensitize gilts to the presence of small, wriggling, noisy piglets. When the mother is exposed to the stimulus of sharing her home with an small animal, farmers have reported that the behavior is drastically reduced, meaning less piglets are maimed or killed by the gilts.
I'd hate to be a guinea pig in Australia....
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~