Research Publication Title

“What the Smell?!” Olfactory Enrichment in Woodland Raised Pigs

Major

Psychology

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Stephanie E. Jett

Keywords

enrichment, pigs, olfactory enrichment, scent enrichment

Abstract

Enrichment is a popular tool used to improve the health and well-being of captive animals. One example of the benefits of olfactory enrichment was demonstrated in a study observing behaviors of shelter dogs after essential oils were diffused. To date, less has been done for animals raised for meat production, specifically pigs. Previous work in industrial farm settings investigated preference for enrichment item type in breeding sows, while other work has used scent to condition piglets for easier and earlier weaning. As part of a larger, long-term enrichment program, the current project takes inspiration from those findings, as well as from work done with captive sea lions, using olfactory enrichment as a way to measure scent preference (savory versus sweet) in pigs raised for meat in a woodland farm setting. We will be doing two rounds of scent exposures, each round containing three scents (control, sweet, and savory). The first round will consist of vanilla, rosemary, and a control of safflower oil. The second round will consist of banana, peanut, and a control of safflower oil. It was predicted that the pigs would show a preference for sweet scents over savory scents. Trail cameras were placed at the three scented sites to observe the interactions and target behaviors, defined as any scent directed behaviors (e.g. snout touching, body rubbing). Preliminary analyses indicate support for the hypothesis with more scent directed behaviors occurring at sites with sweet versus savory scents. Providing enrichment to meat animals is beneficial to the animals and the farmers as it has been shown to improve overall breeding success and meat quality.

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“What the Smell?!” Olfactory Enrichment in Woodland Raised Pigs

Enrichment is a popular tool used to improve the health and well-being of captive animals. One example of the benefits of olfactory enrichment was demonstrated in a study observing behaviors of shelter dogs after essential oils were diffused. To date, less has been done for animals raised for meat production, specifically pigs. Previous work in industrial farm settings investigated preference for enrichment item type in breeding sows, while other work has used scent to condition piglets for easier and earlier weaning. As part of a larger, long-term enrichment program, the current project takes inspiration from those findings, as well as from work done with captive sea lions, using olfactory enrichment as a way to measure scent preference (savory versus sweet) in pigs raised for meat in a woodland farm setting. We will be doing two rounds of scent exposures, each round containing three scents (control, sweet, and savory). The first round will consist of vanilla, rosemary, and a control of safflower oil. The second round will consist of banana, peanut, and a control of safflower oil. It was predicted that the pigs would show a preference for sweet scents over savory scents. Trail cameras were placed at the three scented sites to observe the interactions and target behaviors, defined as any scent directed behaviors (e.g. snout touching, body rubbing). Preliminary analyses indicate support for the hypothesis with more scent directed behaviors occurring at sites with sweet versus savory scents. Providing enrichment to meat animals is beneficial to the animals and the farmers as it has been shown to improve overall breeding success and meat quality.