Even a Hog Can Use a Little Play Time
If you have ever watched a program about zoo animals, you will learn that they often refer to animal enrichment – activities that challenge the animal to forage for food. It’s described as a way for the animals to exhibit to feel more control over their environment, provide mental stimulation, and get physical exercise.
For elephants, the San Diego Zoo offers up grasses in a cube with holes big enough for the trunk to slip in and grab the goods. Tigers’ raw meat meal is distributed around their environment for them to find. Even the various otters appreciate a frozen fish encased in an ice popsicle.
Hogs in confinement don’t need to forage for food, but they do benefit from enrichment. The stress level of swine goes down as they exercise and participate in activities that help reduce stress and occupy leisure time.
The farrowing phase can be an especially stressful time in a sow’s life. So it’s important to help the sow feel less hungry (one source of stress), occupied, and satisfied. The digestive products of fiber (e.g., fatty acids) in the feed can help satisfy the hunger feeling, which can help make the sow feel more satiated and calmer.
Chewing is another stress reliever. Bar biting is one way of chewing, but adding safe chewable “toys” is another. Rubber or hard plastic are suitable materials to work with, and suspending them is a plus for the “entertainment” factor.