Improving Animal Production & Welfare
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Play as an indicator of positive welfare

Piglets play behaviour is associated with their physical development.

pig and piglets

Play is a commonly observed behaviour in young mammals. In collaboration with SRUC, Roslin researchers have demonstrated differences in play behaviour between pig litters. 

Litter differences in play behaviour appear independent of overall activity levels and associate strongly with post-natal growth.  Pre-natal factors (particularly birth weight and body mass index) associate positively with play behaviour. Play has been suggested as a potential indicator of high levels of animal welfare given that play tends to be expressed only under good or ‘optimal’ environmental conditions.

This work provides support for the use of play as a positive welfare indicator in pre-weaned piglets as the litter differences in play were associated positively with physical development.

Original Publication

Brown,S.M., Klaffenbock,M., Nevison,I.M. & Lawrence,A.B. (2015). Evidence for litter differences in play behaviour in pre-weaned pigs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 172, 17-25. DOI: