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Penned pigs prefer three squares a day

A pig's delight is three square meals each day, according to a Swedish study on Tuesday showing swine raised in conventional indoor pens are healthier and grow fatter when fed this way.
Image: Piglets are seen at a hog pen in Shenyang
Swine raised in conventional indoor pens are healthier and grow fatter when they eat three times a day.Reuters file
/ Source: Reuters

A pig's delight is three square meals each day, according to a Swedish study on Tuesday showing swine raised in conventional indoor pens are healthier and grow fatter when fed this way.

The researchers were looking to see whether they could alter feeding times to improve the welfare of indoor pigs raised for commercial slaughter and potentially give farmers ways to better maintain their livestock.

Pigs kept outdoors eat in a more "natural" way by rooting for food throughout the day and gobbling it up in smaller quantities, something the researchers thought the penned hogs might prefer, said Eva Persson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences who led the study.

"We thought if we could increase the time a pig spent feeding it could have had a positive impact on their well-being," Persson said. "If you look at pigs outdoors their natural behavior is to more or less eat all day."

The team gave 360 indoor-raised pigs the same amount of liquid feed spaced out into either three or nine meals, she added in a telephone interview. The study did not look at any potential implications for humans.

Pigs fed the "natural" way gained less weight and had an increased number of stomach lesions that could lead to ulcers compared to the animals given food three times each day, the researchers said.

"Increased daily feeding occasions among group-housed pigs resulted in a poorer daily weight gain and an increased number of stomach problems," they reported in the BioMed Central journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica.

"It will be of great interest to those in the farming and animal welfare fields that this study does not support increased daily feeding occasions in fattening pigs."