If you knew what was good for you! The value of environmental enrichments with known welfare benefits is not demonstrated by sows using operant techniques

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2012;15(3):254-71. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2012.683982.


This study assessed the motivation of gestating sows housed in standard, barren gestation stalls (used for breeding/implantation and/or gestation) for access to environmental enrichment. Enrichment consisted of a cotton rope or rubber mat in comparison to positive (additional food when fed at commercial levels) and negative (empty trough) controls. Although environmental enrichment may improve animal welfare, sows' valuation of enrichments is largely unknown. This study used an operant panel and obtained behavioral measures to quantify motivation. As indicated by a higher price paid and lower latencies to press the panel and enter the treatment stall (all comparisons, p < .05), sows demonstrated higher motivation for food compared with all treatments. Sows housed in gestation stalls did not demonstrate high motivation via operant responding for a cotton rope or a rubber mat; nor did they demonstrate any differences in behavioral measures (all comparisons, p > .10). Although sows' motivation for a mat did not differ from that for an empty trough, previous work has demonstrated the welfare benefits associated with comfort flooring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Female
  • Housing, Animal*
  • Motivation
  • Motor Activity
  • Pregnancy
  • Swine / psychology*