G Model

APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Applied Animal Behaviour Science
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/applanim

Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of
group housed pregnant sows
Julia Adriana Calderón Díaz a,b,∗ , Laura Ann Boyle a
a
b

Pig Development Department, Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland
School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 19 June 2013
Received in revised form 9 November 2013
Accepted 27 November 2013
Available online xxx
Keywords:
Postural behaviour
Rubber mats
Spatial behaviour
Sows
Welfare

a b s t r a c t
This study evaluated the effect of flooring, lameness, body and limb lesion scores on postural
and spatial behaviour of gestating sows. Sixty-four sows were kept in groups of four in pens
with four solid concrete floored feeding stalls and a concrete fully slatted group area from
4 weeks after service. The slats were either left uncovered (CON; n = 8 groups) or 10 mm
thick rubber slat mats were affixed (RUB; n = 8 groups). Lameness (0 = normal to 5 = severe),
limb (environmentally induced lesions, e.g. callus, wounds, swellings; scored according to
severity—0 = normal to 6 = severe) and body (aggression induced lesions; scored according
to severity—0 = normal to 5 = severe) lesions were scored on days 1, 8, 25, 50 and 75 relative
to entering the experiment. Additionally video recordings were made of the groups for
24 h on the same days which were sampled instantaneously every 10 min. An index of the
proportion of time spent in (1) different postures (standing, ventral [VL] and lateral lying
[LL] and total lying [VL + LL]); (2) locations (stalls or group area), (3) posture by location and
(4) number of postural changes was calculated. Sows were categorized as non-lame (score
≤1) or lame (score ≥2). Median scores were calculated for body and limb lesions and were
classified as ≤median or >median. Lameness, limb and body lesions were analysed using
logistic binomial regression. Behavioural variables were tested for normality and analysed
using mixed model equations. Flooring did not affect lameness, body lesion scores, time
spent in each posture or the index of postural changes (P > 0.05). RUB sows spent more time
in the group area (76.3 vs. 53.3 ± 5.8%; P < 0.01) and lay more there (80.0 vs. 62.4 ± 5.3%;
P < 0.05) compared with CON sows. Sows with scores >median for wounds on the limbs
spent more time LL (41.2 vs. 48.3 ± 3.6%; P < 0.05) and less time VL (36.3 vs. 29.9 ± 2.9%;
P < 0.05). On the other hand, sows with body lesion scores >median spent more time VL
(29.9 vs. 36.3 ± 2.9%; P < 0.05). Lame sows stood less and lay more (P < 0.05) in the feeding
stalls. When sows had access to rubber flooring they spent more time in the covered area
and lay more there compared with sows in pens where the concrete slats were bare. This
reflects the preference of group housed sows for a comfortable surface for lying during
pregnancy. Other sow factors such as body and limb lesions and lameness status are also
related with lying behaviour.
© 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
∗ Corresponding author at: Department of Animal Sciences, Iowa State
University, 337 Kildee Hall, Ames, Iowa, 50011, United States.
Tel.: +1 515 294 32 28/+1 515 708 75 43; fax: +1 515 294 56 98.
E-mail addresses: jacalder@iastate.edu, juli.adri.c@gmail.com
(J.A.C. Díaz), laura.boyle@teagasc.ie (L.A. Boyle).

Comfort while lying is of vital importance for sow welfare as pregnant sows spend about 80% of their time lying
(Ekkel et al., 2003). Hence, given that the majority of
pregnant sows worldwide are kept on concrete floors it is

0168-1591/$ – see front matter © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

2

likely that their comfort needs are not being met (Elmore
et al., 2010). Floor type affects the incidence of lameness
(Heinonen et al., 2006; Zurbrigg and Blackwell, 2006) and
limb lesions (Mouttotou et al., 1998; KilBride et al., 2008;
von Wachenfelt et al., 2008). Straw bedding improves the
physical and thermal comfort of the floor (Barnett et al.,
2001; Tuyttens, 2005); however, in modern pig production
systems, the use of straw is unfeasible because of liquid
manure disposal systems and the associated increase in
production costs and labour. Rubber slat mats could be an
alternative to bedding for pigs. They are more yielding and
have a lower thermal conductivity than bare concrete (Bøe
et al., 2007) making them warmer to lie on. It also appears
that they are less injurious than concrete as group housed
pregnant gilts kept on rubber slat mats were less likely to
be lame and had a reduced risk of severe swellings and
wounds on the limbs compared with gilts on concrete slats
(Calderón Díaz et al., 2013). Research on the influence of
rubber flooring on sow behaviour is limited to two short
term studies. Both Tuyttens et al. (2008) and Elmore et al.
(2010) reported that when rubber mats were added to a
group housing system, sows preferred to rest on areas covered with rubber mats compared to uncovered/concrete
areas. Furthermore, sows spent more time lying laterally
in areas covered with rubber mats vs. areas of bare concrete. In accordance with the findings of Boyle et al. (2000)
for sows on rubber in farrowing crates, sows in groups on
rubber slat mats also showed greater ease of changing posture (Tuyttens et al., 2008; Elmore et al., 2010). The effect
of rubber flooring on sow lying and spatial behaviour during her entire pregnancy is not known. Additionally, little is
known about the potential influence which welfare issues
such as lameness and limb lesions may have on the postural
and spatial behaviour of group housed sows. Therefore the
objectives of this study were (1) to compare lameness, limb
and body lesion scores of sows housed on concrete slatted floor or rubber slat mats, and (2) to evaluate the effect
of flooring type, lameness, body and limb lesion scores on
postural and spatial behaviour of gestating sows.

2. Materials and methods
2.1. Ethical statement
This trial was conducted in accordance with the International Guiding Principles for Biomedical Research Involving
Animals as issued by the Council for the International
Organizations of Medical Sciences in 1985 and the ethical guidelines from the International Society for Applied
Ethology. However, as at the time that the study was conducted Teagasc did not have an ethical committee, the
protocol did not undergo a formal ethical review. The
research farm on which this experimental work was conducted was in compliance with Statutory Instrument S.I.
No. 311 of 2010 European Communities (Welfare of Farmed
Animals) Regulations 2000. Furthermore, as no invasive
measures were used, the experiment did not require licensing under Directive 2010/63/EU and S.I. No. 543 of 2012
European Communities (Amendment of Cruelty to Animals
Act, 1876) Regulations 2005.

2.2. Experimental design and husbandry
The study was conducted on the experimental farm
of the Pig Development Department, Teagasc Animal and
Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark,
Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland from March 2011 to June 2012. A
total of 64 Large White × Landrace sows housed in groups
of four were included in the study.
Thirty-two first parity sows (or ‘gilts’) were artificially
inseminated between 32 and 36 weeks of age by trained
farm staff during their second heat. They were housed
together in a single ‘all gilt’ group with an electronic sow
feeder and remained in this accommodation until assignment to the experiment at 28 days post-service. Thirty-two
multiparous sows were inseminated in individual stalls
when heat was detected after weaning. Sixteen of these
were housed in a single dynamic group with an electronic
sow feeder and the remaining 16 sows were housed in individual gestation stalls during their previous pregnancies.
All sows were served for a second time 24 h after the first
service and then they were moved to gestation stalls for
28 days. A boar was present in the breeding barn for heat
detection at all times.
Four sows were grouped together according to parity
(eight groups of gilts, and eight groups of sows parity ≥4;
there were no 2nd or 3rd parity sows in the herd at the time
of the experiment) and assigned to the experiment at 28
days post-service such that there were eight experimental
groups per treatment. Within each parity group, sows were
balanced according to their lameness score on the day the
trial started. Thus, in each group there were non-lame and
lame sows. Additionally, for the multiparous sows, sows
were balanced between flooring treatments according to
their previous housing system. Ultimately, thirty-two sows
were housed in pens with concrete flooring (parity average
3.4 ± 2.64; BW average 213.7 ± 44.09) and 32 sows were
housed in pens with rubber slat mats in the group area
(parity average 3.3 ± 2.52; BW average 199.7 ± 36.13).
The test pens used in this study had four free access
feeding stalls (each 1.71 m L × 0.65 m W × 1.02 m H) with
solid concrete flooring. Behind the feeding stalls there was
a group area (3.20 m L × 2.68 m W) for exercise and dunging
with concrete slatted (slat width 14.5 cm, gap width 2 cm;
void area = 8.2%) flooring which was either uncovered
(CON) or covered with rubber slat mats (RUB) (EasyFixTM
Rubber Products, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway, Ireland). Four test
pens (2 × CON and 2 × RUB) were re-used four times during
the 16 month trial. Sows remained in the test pens until day
110 of pregnancy. They were never confined in the feeding
stalls and were free to move about the pen at all times.
The RUB pens were identical to the CON pens except that
the group area was covered with rubber slat mats (1.60 m
L × 0.29 m W × 0.01 m H; void area = 8.2%). The rubber mats
consisted of a 10 mm thick two-strip system with circularshaped patterns on the surface and wedges underneath.
Each strip of rubber matting covered two slats and one gap.
The rubber slat mats were attached to the concrete slats
by hammering the wedges underneath into the underlying
gaps (Fig. 1). No additional means of fixation was required.
The house was ventilated by a cross-ventilation system,
whereby fresh air entered the building through an opening

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

3

Fig. 1. Rubber slat mats used to cover the slatted group area. Pictures courtesy of EasyFixTM Rubber products.

in the lower part of the doors and was extracted by fans in
the roof. Sows were fed a liquid diet (water-to-meal ratio
3.5:1; 13.1 MJ digestive energy/kg) consisting mainly of
wheat, barley and soya meal from a computerized feeding
system (Big Dutchman, Pig Equipment GmbH, Vechta,
Germany) twice a day. Sows had ad libitum access to water
via a nipple drinker in the feed trough. Ambient temperature in the gestation accommodation was recorded on the
inspection/recording days and it varied from 9 ◦ C to 22 ◦ C.
2.3. Scoring methodology
All measurements were taken by one trained researcher
to eliminate inter-observer variation. Locomotory ability,
limb and body lesions and manure on the body (MOB) and
behavioural observations were recorded on days 1, 8, 25,
50 and 75 in relation to entering the trial. The dirtiness and
wetness of the floors was scored weekly.
2.3.1.1. Locomotory ability
Locomotory ability was assessed using aspects of the
procedure of Main et al. (2000), and included an evaluation
of the sow’s standing posture and gait. Sows were given
a score of 0 (not lame) to 5 (severely lame, cannot stand).
Sows were removed from their home pen and walked on
the concrete solid floor of the alleyway to evaluate locomotory ability.
2.3.1.2. Limb lesions
Limb lesions (environmentally induced/arising from
pressure or traumatic contact with fixtures and fittings)
on the front fetlock, carpal joint, humerus, elbow, carpus,
hock, tarsus–metatarsus joint, hind fetlock and metatarsus
were scored according to their severity using a ‘weighted
scoring system’ adapted by Boyle et al. (2000) from de
Koning (1985). The lesions were classified under the following categories: (i) score 0 = normal; (ii) score 1 = callus
(thickening of the epidermis and atrophy of glands); (iii)
score 2 = swelling (abnormal enlargement of a part of the
body, typically as a result of an accumulation of fluid); (iv)
score 3 = wound (where the epidermis is interrupted but
not ulcerated and there is no evidence of secondary infection); (v) score 3 = bursitis (acquired fluid-filled sac that
develops in the subcutaneous connective tissue; usually
occurs on the hind legs below the point of the hock or on
the lateral sides of the elbow); (vi) score 4 = severe wounds
(these ulcerated lesions may or may not be accompanied
by infection or (vii) severe swellings (characterized by redness and swelling accompanied by heat and pain) and (viii)

score 6 = severe wounds plus severe swellings. The sum of
scores across all sites for each lesion type yielded a total
score for each sow for each lesion type/inspection time.
2.3.1.3. Body lesions
Body lesions (i.e. scratches caused by the teeth of
another sow during an aggressive interaction) were examined on the left and right sides on five regions of the sow’s
body: (1) ear; (2) neck and shoulder; (3) hindquarter; (4)
belly and back and, (5) tail/ano-genital region. The lesions
were classified and scored as follows: (i) 0 = no lesions; (ii)
1 = one small (approx. 2 cm), superficial lesion; (iii) 2 = more
than one small, superficial lesion or just one red (deeper
than score one) but still superficial lesion; (iv) 3 = one or
more than one big (2 to 5 cm) and deep lesions; (v) 4 = one
very big (>5 cm), deep, red lesion or more than one big,
deep, red lesions and (vi) 5 = more than one very big, deep,
red lesions. Addition of scores across all sites yielded a total
score for each sow at each inspection.
2.3.2. Manure on the body (MOB)
Manure on the body was assessed according to the
Welfare Quality® (2009) assessment protocol for pigs, sows
and piglets (scoring guide). The sows were made to stand
up for inspection and received a score from 0 to 2 where
0 = up to 10% of the body surface was soiled; 1 = 10% to 30%
of the body surface was soiled and 2 = more than 30% of the
body surface was soiled.
2.3.2.1. Behavioural observations. Spatial and postural
behaviours were observed. Sows were video recorded continuously during 24 h using black and white cameras (SONY
CCTV camera WV-BP130/B) installed on the wall of the
gestation accommodation on days 1, 8, 25, 50 and 75. A
time-elapsed VCR (MITSUBISHI HS-1024) and video multiplexer (PANASONIC WJ-FS 216) were used. Sows were
individually marked with different numbers across their
back and sides using livestock paint (Coyle’s Animal Marker
Spray, Coyle Vet. Products Ltd., Co. Galway, Ireland) for
identification during video recording. Paint was reapplied
as needed during the experiment. The videotapes (TDK
TV180) were analysed using instantaneous sampling every
10 min. An index of the proportion of time spent in different
postures [‘dog’ sitting, standing (S), lateral lying (LL—lying
on the side with head, shoulder, belly, hindquarters and
flank in contact with floor and the four legs extended to one
side), ventral lying (VL—sow lies on her sternum/stomach
with her head up-right, two front legs extended in front of
her, one hind leg partially under the body and the other

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

4

extended out to one side) and lying (i.e. lateral and ventral lying combined together—L)]; time spent in the two
areas of the pen (feeding stalls and group area); and postures in each location were recorded. Additionally, changes
in posture between each 10 min instantaneous scan sample
were counted to calculate an index of the number of postural changes made for each location and in total on each
observation day.
2.3.2.2. Flooring cleanliness. The feeding stalls and the
group area were scored separately. Each of the locations
received a score between 0 and 4 where 0 = pen clean/dry;
1 = 25% of the area covered with manure/wet faeces, water
or urine; 2 = 26–50% of the area covered with manure/wet
faeces, water or urine; 3 = 51–75% of the area covered with
manure/wet faeces, water or urine and, 4 = more than 75%
of the area covered with manure/wet faeces, water or urine.
2.4. Statistical analysis
The group was considered the experimental unit; therefore, average scores were calculated for each variable for
each day of inspection. Parity was classified as 1st and ≥4.
Sows were categorized as non-lame (score ≤1) or lame
(score ≥2). In addition, due to the low number of sows
affected by severe wounds, severe swellings, and severe
wounds plus severe swellings on the limbs, the scores for
these lesions were summed and re-classified as a single
variable (severe lesions). Medians were calculated for body
and limb lesions. Medians were calculated for day 1 separate to the other days of inspection. For days 8, 25, 50 and 75
medians were calculated across the 4 inspection days. Values were classified as ≤median or >median lesion scores.
MOB was classified as clean = score ≤ 1 and dirty = score 2.
To analyse floor cleanliness, soiling and wetness were classified into two categories: 0 = score ≤ 1 and 1 = scores ≥ 2.
Parity and BW were highly correlated (results not shown);
therefore, only parity was included in the analysis.
Locomotory ability, body and limb lesion scores, MOB
and flooring cleanliness were analysed using logistic binomial regression analysis by the use of Wald statistics
to investigate their association with the predictor variable. The model for locomotory ability included floor type,
day of inspection, parity and day 1 scores as covariates.
The model for body and limb lesions included floor type,
day of inspection, parity, manure on the body and day 1
scores as covariates. The model for manure on the body
included floor type, day of inspection and day 1 scores
as covariates. The model for flooring cleanliness included
floor type and ambient temperature (included as a continuous variable). However, only predictor variables with
P < 0.35 remained in the final model except for flooring
type which was included in the model irrespective of its
P value. Additionally, univariate models were built to identify the association between wounds, swellings and bursitis
on the limbs and locomotory ability. Data were analysed
using SAS V9.3 PROC GENMOD (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC).
Statistical differences were reported when P < 0.05. Results
are reported as odds ratios (OR) with the associated 95%
confidence intervals (CI).

Behavioural variables were tested for normality before
the analysis using the Shapiro–Wilk test and examination
of the normal plot. Data were analysed using SAS V9.3
PROC MIXED (SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC). ‘Dog’ sitting was not
included in the analysis as there were very few observations of this behaviour. The models for the time spent in
different postures included floor type, day of inspection,
parity, lameness, wounds on the limbs, bursitis, swellings
on the limbs and body lesion scores and ambient temperature (included as a continuous variable). The models for the
time spent in different locations included floor type, day of
inspection, parity, lameness, wounds on the limbs, bursitis,
swellings on the limbs and body lesion scores, floor soiling
and wetness scores and ambient temperature. The models
for the time spent in different postures by each pen location included floor type, day of inspection, the interaction
between floor type and day of inspection, parity, lameness,
wounds on the limbs, bursitis, swellings on the limbs and
body lesion scores, floor soiling and wetness scores and
ambient temperature The model for the index of postural
changes included floor type, day of inspection, parity, lameness, wounds on the limbs, bursitis, swellings on the limbs
and body lesion scores and ambient temperature. However, only predictor variables with P < 0.25 remained in
the final model except for flooring type that was included
in the model irrespective of its P value. A Tukey–Kramer
adjustment was used to account for multiple comparisons.
Statistical differences were reported when P < 0.05. Results
are reported as least-square means ± standard error of the
mean.
3. Results
Descriptive statistics (number and percent) of groups of
gestating sows with lameness (i.e. locomotion score ≥2);
body and limb lesion scores >median and MOB = 2 are presented in Table 1. Two sows (1 CON and 1 RUB) died during
the experiment. The CON sow had to be euthanized because
of an injury to her back which caused paralysis. The RUB
sow became trapped under the feed trough. Two sows
(1 CON and 1 RUB) were removed from the experiment
because they were not pregnant and needed to be inseminated.
3.1. Factors associated with locomotory ability
On average, 33.6% of CON and 27.5% of RUB groups
of sows were lame through the experiment. Having controlled for lameness score at the start of the study, there
was no association between locomotory ability and flooring
type (P > 0.05).
3.2. Factors associated with limb lesions
There was no association between flooring type and
any of the limb lesions recorded (P > 0.05). There was a
decreased risk of scores >median for wounds on the limbs at
day 50 (P < 0.05) and day 75 (P < 0.01) compared with day 8
(Table 2). Sows with scores >median for swellings (P < 0.05)
and bursitis (P < 0.01) on the limbs later in the study were
more likely to have had higher scores for these lesions on

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

Inspection day
Day 2 (n = 16)

Day 25 (n = 16)

Day 50 (n = 16)

Day 75 (n = 15)

Concrete

Rubber

Concrete

Rubber

Concrete

Rubber

Concrete

Rubber

Concrete

Rubber

n
4
7

%
25.0
43.7

n
2
6

%
12.5
37.5

n
3
5

%
18.7
31.2

n
3
6

%
18.7
37.5

n
2
3

%
12.5
18.7

n
2
4

%
12.5
25.0

n
1
2

%
6.2
12.5

n
2
4

%
12.5
25.0

n
3
0

%
20.0
0.0

n
2
2

%
13.3
13.3

3
4
5
7
5
4
6

18.7
25.0
31.2
43.7
31.2
25.0
37.5

4
4
5
4
3
1
7

25.0
25.0
31.2
25.0
18.7
6.2
43.7

4
4
4
5
6
2
7

25.0
25.0
25.0
31.2
37.5
12.5
43.7

4
4
4
3
2
1
4

25.0
25.0
25.0
18.7
12.5
6.2
25.0

3
4
4
4
5
4
4

18.7
25.0
25.0
25.0
31.2
25.0
25.0

3
5
5
1
2
1
4

18.7
31.2
31.2
6.2
12.5
6.2
25.0

3
4
4
3
6
2
6

18.7
25.0
25.0
18.7
37.5
12.5
37.5

3
2
2
1
2
2
5

18.7
12.5
12.5
6.2
12.5
12.5
31.2

7
1
3
2
4
0
3

46.7
6.7
20.0
13.3
26.7
0.0
20.0

4
0
3
1
3
1
3

26.7
0.0
20.0
6.7
20.0
6.7
20.00

Table 2
Differences between parity, day of inspection, lesion scores on day 1 and manure on the body scores on body, limb and lesion scores greater than the median and manure on the body score = 2 of sows during
gestation.
Parity1

Inspection day2
Day 25

Odds ratio
5

Body lesions
Limb lesions6
Callus
Swelling
Wound
Bursitis
Severe lesions
Manure on the body

5.7

95% CI
1.41–23.07

a

18.6
3.6a
NI
NI
NI
NI

3.17–109.12
1.25–10.71
NI
NI
NI
NI

Odds ratio
0.2
6.5
NI7
0.5
NI
1.9
1.4a

Day 50
95% CI
0.03–1.18
0.74–54.13
NI
0.10–2.02
NI
0.35–10.58
0.98–56.24

Odds ratio
a

0.1

1.0
NI
0.2a
NI
1.5
2.6a

Scores on day 13

Manure on the body4

95% CI

Odds ratio

95% CI

Odds ratio

95% CI

0.002–0.11

3.0

0.78–11.49

2.3

0.65–7.97

Day 75
95% CI
0.02–0.90
0.12–9.33
NI
0.03–0.84
NI
0.17–12.52
0.70–10.03

Odds ratio
a

0.01

0.4
NI
0.1a
NI
0.2
11.4a

0.07–0.48
NI
0.02–0.56
NI
0.02–2.60
2.54–51.65

2.9
NI
2.2
11.9a
12.0
21.7a

0.45–18.32
NI
0.67–7.35
3.24–44.44
0.63–54.93
1.69–278.02

a

0.05
NI
3.0
NI
2.4

0.01–0.26
NI
0.84–10.75
NI
0.53–11

Odds ratios reported for sows parity ≥4 compared to sows parity 1.
Odds ratios reported for days 25, 50 and 75 compared to day 8.
Odds ratios reported for scores > median compared to scores ≤median on day 1.
4
Odds ratios reported for sows with manure on the body score 2 compared with sows with manure on the body score ≤1.
5
Cummulative score of lesions observed on the ear, neck/shoulder, hindquarter, and belly/back for both left and right sides of the sow, as well as the tail/ano-genital region (0 = normal to 5 = severe).
6
Lesions observed on the front fetlock, carpal joint, humerus, elbow, carpus, hock, tarsus-metatarsus joint, hind fetlock, and metatarsus (0 = normal to 6 = severe injuries).
7
NI = not included in the final model; P > 0.35.
a
Significantly different from reference category; P < 0.05
1
2
3

ARTICLE IN PRESS

Lameness
Body lesions
Limb lesions
Alopecia (M = 0.15)
Calluses (M = 0.25)
Swellings (M = 0.08)
Wounds (M = 0.17)
Bursitis (M = 0.21)
Severe lesions (M = 0)
Manure on the body

Day 8 (n = 16)

G Model

Variable

J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

Table 1
Number and percentage of groups of gestating sows with lameness (i.e. locomotion score ≥2); body (i.e. aggression induced) and limb (alopecia, calluses, swellings, wounds, bursitis and severe limb lesions)
lesion scores >median (M); and manure on the body score = 2, housed on concrete slats either uncovered or covered by rubber slat mats at each of five inspections.

5

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

6

day 1 compared with sows with lesion scores ≤median on
day 1 (Table 2). Sows with scores >median for swellings
(P < 0.05) and wounds (P < 0.01) on the limbs were at an
increased risk of lameness compared to sows with scores
≤median for swellings and wounds on the limbs (Table 2).
3.3. Factors associated with body lesions
There was no association between body lesion scores
and flooring type (P > 0.05). There was a decreased risk of
body lesion scores >median at day 50 (P < 0.05) and day 75
(P < 0.01) compared with day 8 (Table 2).
3.4. Factors associated with manure on the body
There was no association between MOB scores and
flooring type (P > 0.05). Sows had an increased risk of being
dirty at day 25 (P < 0.05), day 50 (P < 0.01) and day 75 compared with day 8 (P < 0.05) (Table 2).
3.5. Behavioural observations
3.5.1. Postures
There was no association between the time spent in
the different postures and flooring type (P > 0.05). On day 1
sows spent more time S (P < 0.01) and VL (P < 0.01) and time
spent in these postures decreased as pregnancy progressed
(Fig. 2A). Additionally, sows spent less time LL (P < 0.01)
and L (P < 0.01) on day 1 and time spent in these postures
increased as pregnancy progressed (Fig. 2A). First parity
sows spent less time S (P < 0.01) and more time VL (P < 0.01)
and L (P < 0.01) compared with older sows (Table 3). Lameness score did not affect the time spent in the different
postures observed (P > 0.05). Sows with scores >median for
wounds on the limbs spent more time LL (P < 0.05) and less
time VL (P < 0.05) compared to sows with scores ≤median
for wounds on the limbs (Table 3). Sows with body lesion
scores >median spent more time VL (P < 0.05) compared to
sows with body lesion scores ≤median (Table 3). Ambient temperature was not related to any of the postures
recorded.
3.5.2. Locations
RUB sows spent more time in the group area (77.8 ± 6.3%
vs. 52.4 ± 6.3%; P < 0.01) compared with CON sows. First
parity sows spent more time in the group area compared with older sows (P < 0.01; Table 3). Sows with scores
>median for wounds on the limbs spent less time in
the group area (P < 0.01) compared to sows with scores
≤median for wounds on the limbs (Table 3). Sows with
body lesion scores >median spent more time in the
group area (P < 0.05) compared to sows with body lesion
scores ≤median (Table 3). Time spent in the feeding stalls
increased with an increase in 1 ◦ C in the gestation accommodation (P < 0.05). Lameness score did not affect the
time spent in the group area or in the feeding stalls
(P > 0.05).
3.5.3. Postures by location—Group area
RUB sows spent less time S (P < 0.05) and more time
L (P < 0.05) in the group area compared with CON sows

(Fig. 3). Sows spent more time S (P < 0.01) on day 1 with
reduced levels of S as pregnancy progressed (Fig. 2B). Sows
spent less time LL (P < 0.01) and L (P < 0.01) on day 1 and LL
increased as pregnancy progressed (Fig. 2B). There was no
interaction between flooring treatment and day of observation for any of the postures (P > 0.05). First parity sows
spent less time S (P < 0.01) and more time VL (P < 0.01)
and L (P < 0.01) compared with older sows (Table 3). Sows
with scores >median for wounds on the limbs spent less
(P < 0.05) time VL compared to sows with scores ≤median
for wounds on the limbs (Table 3). Sows with body lesion
scores >median spent less (P < 0.05) time S and more time
VL (P < 0.05) compared to sows with scores ≤median for
wounds on the limbs (Table 3). There was no difference in
the proportion of time spent in the different postures by
lame and non-lame sows (P > 0.05). Ambient temperature
was not related to any of the postures recorded in the group
area.
3.5.4. Postures by location—Feeding stalls
RUB sows spent less time LL (P < 0.05) in this location
compared to CON sows (Fig. 3). Sows spent more time S
(P < 0.01) and VL (P < 0.01) on day 1 but time spent in these
postures decreased as pregnancy progressed (Table 2). Conversely, sows spent less time LL (P < 0.01) and L (P < 0.05) on
day 1 but LL increased as pregnancy progressed (Table 2).
There was no interaction between flooring treatment and
day of observation for any of the postures (P > 0.05). First
parity sows spent more time S (P < 0.05) and less time
LL (P < 0.01) and L (P < 0.05) compared with older sows
(Table 3). Sows with body lesion scores >median spent less
time (P < 0.05) lateral lying compared to sows with scores
≤median for wounds on the limbs (Table 3). Lame sows
spent less time S (P < 0.05) and more time LL (P < 0.05),
VL (P < 0.01) and L (P < 0.01) compared to non-lame sows
(Table 3). Ambient temperature was not related to any of
the postures recorded in the feeding stalls.
3.5.5. Postural changes
There was no association between flooring treatment
and the index of total posture changes. Additionally, there
was no difference between flooring treatment in the index
of postural changes made in the group area or in the feeding stalls (P > 0.05). First parity sows showed a higher index
of postural changes (27.3 ± 1.6% vs. 22.1 ± 1.5%; P < 0.05)
compared with older sows throughout the experiment.
Lameness, limb and body lesions and ambient temperature were not related to the total index of postural changes
or to the index of postural changes made in the different
locations.
3.6. Factors associated with flooring cleanliness
There was no association between flooring type and
soiling or wetness scores of the floor in the group area
(P > 0.05). Feeding stalls in the RUB pens had an increased
risk of soiling (OR = 1.7; CI = 1.24–2.47; P < 0.01) and wetness (OR = 2.5; CI = 1.38–4.66; P < 0.01) compared with the
feeding stalls in CON pens. There was no association
between soiling or wetness and ambient temperature.

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

ARTICLE IN PRESS

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

7

Fig. 2. (A) Total time (lsmeans ± SEM%) spent standing, lateral and ventral lying and total time spent lying by gestating sows during gestation. (B) Time
spent in different postures in the group area (observation days was not included in the model for ventral lying in the group area (B) as theP value was
>0.35) and (C) the feeding stalls on each observation day. a,b,c Significant differences (P < 0.05) between days within each posture.

Concrete

100

Rubber
Time spent %

80

*

60
40

*

*

20
0
Standing Lateral Ventral
lying
lying
Gro u p a rea

Lying Standing Lateral Ventral
lying
lying

Lying

Feed in g sta lls

Fig. 3. Time (lsmeans ± SEM%) spent standing, lateral and ventral lying and total time lying by gestating sows housed on concrete slats either uncovered
or covered by rubber slats mats in the different areas of the pen. * Values differ significantly; P < 0.05

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

8

Table 3
Differences between parity, lameness, wounds on the limbs and body lesion scores in the time (lsmeans ± SE %) spent in different postures (standing, lateral
and ventral lying and total time lying), locations (group or stall area) and postures by location by gestating sows.
Parity

Postures
Standing
Lateral lying
Ventral lying
Lying
Locations
Group area
Feeding stalls
Postures by location
Group area
Standing
Lateral lying
Ventral lying
Lying
Feeding stalls
Standing
Lateral lying
Ventral lying
Lying

Lameness

Wounds on the limbs

Body lesions

Parity 1

Parity ≥4

Non-lame

Lame

Score ≤median

Score > median

Score ≤median

Score >median

13.7 ± 1.2a
38.0 ± 4.5
47.7 ± 3.6a
85.1 ± 1.8a

25.5 ± 1.5b
51.4 ± 4.7
18.5 ± 3.6b
71.9 ± 1.7b

NI1
46.9 ± 3.4
NI1
NI

NI
42.5 ± 3.9
NI
NI

NI
41.2 ± 3.6a
36.3 ± 2.9a
78.0 ± 1.6

NI
48.3 ± 3.6b
29.9 ± 2.9b
78.9 ± 1.7

NI
NI
29.9 ± 2.9a
77.4 ± 1.7

NI
NI
36.3 ± 3.0b
79.5 ± 1.8

79.7 ±5.9a
19.2 ± 6.1a

49.9 ± 5.6b
54.6 ± 6.0b

NI
32.3 ± 4.1

NI
41.4 ± 5.5

56.16 ± 5.3b
41.59 ± 4.8

17.2 ± 5.1a
35.5 ± 5.1
48.9 ± 5.0a
81.8 ± 5.4a

37.4 ± 4.9b
43.9 ± 5.1
18.0 ± 4.9b
60.7 ± 5.1b

NI
NI
NI
NI

NI
NI
NI
NI

33.9 ± 4.3
NI
37.5 ± 4.1a
75.5 ± 4.4

31.9 ± 4.5
NI
29.4 ± 4.2b
67.0 ± 4.6

32.8 ± 4.2a
36.2 ± 4.1
29.5 ± 4.0a
65.1 ± 4.3a

21.8 ± 4.6b
43.2 ± 4.3
37.4 ± 4.2b
77.4 ± 4.7b

65.2 ± 7.4a
15.4 ± 5.6a
NI
32.1 ± 7.4a

38.2 ± 7.3b
40.4 ± 5.8b
NI
59.6 ± 7.4b

61.6 ± 5.4a
22.4 ± 4.1a
13.6 ± 2.1a
34.8 ± 5.4a

41.9 ± 6.7b
33.4 ± 5.1b
24.7 ± 2.8b
56.8 ± 6.8b

56.0 ± 6.1
24.4 ± 4.6
NI
41.4 ± 6.2

47.4 ± 5.9
31.4 ± 4.5
NI
50.3 ± 6.0

NI
34.1 ± 4.6a
17.0 ± 2.6
NI

NI
21.6 ± 4.6b
21.3 ± 2.5
NI

72.2 ± 5.5b
33.0 ± 4.9

1

NI = not included in the final model; P > 0.25.
Significant differences (P < 0.05) between predictor parity, lameness, wounds on the limbs and body lesions within each posture, location and posture
by location.
a,b

4. Discussion
We hypothesised that sows with access to rubber flooring would have a decreased risk of lameness compared
with sows on concrete; however, the prevalence of lameness did not differ between flooring treatments. This result
was unexpected as in a previous study we found a beneficial impact of rubber slat mats on lameness in a similar
group housing system (Calderón Díaz et al., 2013). However, in that study sows were kept on rubber from service
until farrowing whereas in the current study they were
kept in stalls for the first 28 days post service. The shorter
time on experiment could explain why the rubber flooring
was not associated with an improvement in lameness in
the current study. Furthermore, Calderón Díaz et al. (2013)
focused on young sows in which the benefits of a softer
surface underfoot are likely to be more obvious as they are
less likely to have chronic locomotory problems (Dewey,
2006). In the current study half of the sows used were
parity four or above. These animals had all been housed
on slatted concrete (in stalls or a in dynamic group) during their entire productive life. It is possible that a short
period (10 weeks) on rubber floor was insufficient to overcome any chronic locomotory disturbances and/or injuries
these animals had sustained. Nevertheless, if the differences between the findings on lameness in this study and
that of Calderón Díaz et al. (2013) were because of the
inclusion of older sows in the former then we would have
expected a significant effect of parity on locomotory ability.
The fact that there was none suggests that the causal factors
for lameness in this study may have been different to those
in the study by Calderón Díaz et al. (2013) and were such
that they could not be resolved/ameliorated by providing more comfortable flooring. Finally other management
factors such as diet composition and group size differed

between the studies and this could also have contributed to
the conflicting findings. In accordance with Calderón Díaz
et al. (2013) we found that higher scores for wounds and
swellings on the limbs were risk factors for lameness. It is
possible either that the discomfort associated with limb
lesions caused alterations in locomotion (KilBride et al.,
2009, 2010) or that such lesions developed in lame sows
because of prolonged lying (Bonde et al., 2004). Further
research is required to elucidate this relationship.
Bursitis is associated with lying on hard surfaces
(Mouttotou et al., 1998; Scott et al., 2006; Gillman et al.,
2008; KilBride et al., 2008). The fact that sows with scores
greater than the median at the beginning of the study continued to have higher scores for this lesion throughout
the experiment reflects the chronic nature of such limb
lesions. In fact the chronic nature of bursitis also explains
why rubber flooring did not have a beneficial impact on
these lesions and is in agreement with Calderón Díaz et al.
(2013). Introduction of pigs to a new environment can
result in acute injuries to the limbs (Gonyou, 1986; Boyle
et al., 2002). This explains why sows had higher scores for
wounds on the limbs on day 1 than on any other inspection
day. However, there was no beneficial effect of rubber flooring on this limb lesion which contrasts with the findings of
Calderón Díaz et al. (2013). If introduction to a new environment is accompanied by aggression between unfamiliar
sows then traumatic collisions with fixtures and fittings
or slips and falls on concrete exacerbates injuries/wounds
to the limbs (Philipot et al., 1994). Anecdotally there was
much less aggression at mixing in the current study than in
the study by Calderón Díaz et al. (2013) probably because
all of the gilts were familiar with one another and the older
sows which were previously group housed also had prior
experience of one another. This may explain why no protective effect of rubber on wounds to the limbs was detected. It

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

must also be emphasised that the sample size of this study
was relatively small and so the results should be treated
with caution. Further testing of different types of rubber
flooring with, for instance, different group sizes and different group feeding arrangements is required before the
results can be generalised.
In spite of there being less aggression than in the study
by Calderón Díaz et al. (2013) there was some fighting
to establish a new social hierarchy between sows which
had no prior experience of one another and this was
reflected in higher body lesion scores in general, after mixing (Sadler et al., 2011). In accordance with our previous
study (Calderón Díaz et al., 2013), there was no relationship between body lesion scores and flooring treatment.
This suggests that flooring has little impact on aggression
at mixing. Nevertheless body lesion scores do not always
correlate well with aggression (Stukenborg, 2011) and so
this would need to be confirmed by observations of the
frequency and intensity of aggressive behaviour at mixing
on rubber and concrete flooring. Particularly as there is an
indication that sows will terminate fights earlier on rubber
mats than on concrete when they become wet and slippery
(Boyle and Llamas Moya, 2003).
In agreement with Tuyttens et al. (2008) and Elmore
et al. (2010), flooring type influenced the time sows spent
in different areas of the pen and the time they spent in the
different postures in those areas but it did not have an effect
on the total time spent in the different postures. Sows on
rubber spent more time in the group area and importantly,
spent more time lying there than sows on concrete. This
reflected their preference for physical comfort while lying
which is in accordance with findings for other species (e.g.
sheep; Gordon and Crockram, 1995; Faerevik et al., 2005.
Softness plays an important role in physical comfort (Bøe
et al., 2007) and even relatively hard and inflexible rubber
such as used in the current study is likely more yielding and
hence more comfortable than concrete.
Our results confirm sows’ preference for a more comfortable surface to lie on as reported by Tuyttens et al.
(2008) and Elmore et al. (2010) and extend their findings
by illustrating that this preference persists throughout gestation. Nevertheless, they are in conflict with the findings
of both studies regarding the effect on postural changes
as we found no increase in posture changing in the rubber flooring treatment. This also conflicts with findings for
other species (e.g. dairy cows: Haley et al., 2001; cattle:
Platz et al., 2008) where the improved comfort associated
with rubber flooring was associated with higher levels of
posture changing. Prolonged and uninterrupted lying on
hard surfaces causes compression lesions and leg diseases
such as carpal bursitis and periarthritis (inflammation of
the tissues around the joint) and overworks the carpal
joints during lying down and standing up (Stanek, 1997;
Bonde et al., 2004; Schulze Westerath et al., 2007). Comfort
while lying is likely to be particularly important to pregnant
sows as they spend up to 80% of their time lying. Indeed
it is possible that a healthier locomotory system arising
from more frequent posture changing was one of the main
mechanisms through which rubber flooring was associated
with improvements in the locomotory ability of sows in the
study by Calderón Díaz et al. (2013), especially as rubber

9

flooring actually had a negative impact on claw health in
that study. Following on from this the absence of an effect
of rubber flooring on posture changing may explain why
there was no beneficial effect of rubber on lameness scores
in the current study. However, it is more likely that the way
in which posture changes were determined was deficient.
An index of posture changing was calculated by counting
changes between each 10 min sampling interval. This is in
contrast to both Tuyttens et al. (2008) and Elmore et al.
(2010) who counted the total number of posture changes.
Some of the sows used in this study were previously
housed individually and hence initially spent more time in
the feeding stalls. However, irrespective of flooring treatment, sows tended to spend more time in the group area
as pregnancy progressed. This may have been because
the sows’ movement inside the feeding stalls became
constrained by their increasing body size as pregnancy progressed (O’Connell et al., 2007). Additionally, sows spent
more time lateral lying as pregnancy progressed, probably to facilitate advancing gestation (Marchant-Forde and
Marchant-Forde, 2004). First parity sows included in this
study were reared in groups since birth and had no previous experience of close confinement which could explain
why they spent more time in the group area. However, we
cannot offer an explanation for the higher proportion of
time spent ventral lying by first parity compared to older
sows.
Bonde et al. (2004) reported that lame sows spend more
time lying than non-lame sows. However, lameness score
had no effect on the time spent in the different postures
in the current study or on the proportion of time spent in
the different locations of the pen. Nevertheless, while there
was no difference in behaviour between lame and nonlame sows in the group area, lame sows spent less time
standing and more time lying in the feeding stalls. It is possible that being isolated from the rest of the group, the lame
sows had a better chance of undisturbed rest in the stalls.
They were also better protected in the feeding stalls from
incurring further injury while lying which could have exacerbated their lameness. These findings suggest that it may
improve the welfare of lame or otherwise compromised
sows in groups to have the option of protection or isolation
from their penmates while lying.
Sows with higher body lesion scores spent less time
lying on their sides (i.e. laterally). Lateral lying increases
the body area in contact with the floor (Aarnink et al., 2006)
but as the majority of sows had only mild body lesions,
it is unlikely that they were trying to minimize contact
between their skin and the floor to reduce discomfort or
pain. Sows with higher body lesion scores are usually the
subjects of more aggression than sows with lower scores
(Barnett et al., 1992). Therefore, such sows may need to
be more vigilant regarding potential attacks by aggressors
while lying. Ventral lying could be considered a more vigilant posture and less vulnerable posture than lateral lying
for resting. However, this theory conflicts with the finding
that sows with higher body lesion scores spent more time
in the group area where they would be more susceptible
to aggression than in the feeding stalls (Arey and Edwards,
1998). Sows with scores higher than the median for wounds
on the limbs spent more time lateral lying. As the limbs are

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11
10

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

somewhat tucked underneath the body while ventral lying
this posture could apply more pressure to wounds on the
limbs and therefore cause more pain/discomfort compared
to lying with the limbs extended.
As previously reported by Tuyttens et al. (2008) and
Elmore et al. (2010) sows in the rubber covered slats treatment spent a higher proportion of time in the uncovered
area of the pen (i.e. the feeding stalls) when ambient temperatures increased. In this study the ambient temperature
ranged from 9 ◦ C to 22 ◦ C indicating that sows were always
within their thermoneutral zone (Noblet et al., 1989) and
were unlikely to have experienced heat stress. Nevertheless our results suggest that sows preferred to spend more
time in the concrete floored feeding stalls rather than on
rubber mats at even moderately warm ambient temperatures to increase heat loss. This emphasises the need that
pregnant sows kept in groups have for a choice of surfaces
to lie on and suggests that in warmer climates covering the
entire pen with rubber slat mats should be avoided as it
may contribute to heat stress in pregnant sows.
In agreement with Calderón Díaz et al. (2013), pens covered with rubber slat mats were at higher risk of being more
soiled and wetter in the feeding stalls. Sows with rubber
flooring in the group area spent more time lying there and
so may have been more likely to keep that area clean and
therefore used the feeding stalls as places to defecate and
urinate. Also in accordance with Calderón Díaz et al. (2013)
there was no difference in the dirtiness of the sows’ body
between floor types. As discussed in that paper, the scoring
system employed may not have been sensitive enough to
detect potential treatment differences. These were likely
given the differences reported in the dirtiness of the floor,
at least in the feeding stalls, between treatments. Sows
became dirtier as the experiment progressed irrespective
of flooring treatment. This was possibly due to the fact that
the pens were not cleaned during the course of the study.
5. Conclusion
When sows had access to rubber flooring in the group
area they spent more time there and lay more there compared with sows in pens where the concrete slats were
bare. This confirms the preference of group housed sows
for a comfortable surface for lying during pregnancy. This
study also illustrates that there are relationships between
other welfare indicators such as the severity of body and
limb lesions and the postural behaviour of gestating sows.
Acknowledgements
This work was administered by Teagasc’s Walsh Fellowship Scheme via funding from Enterprise Ireland and
EasyFixTM Rubber Products. The authors thank the farm
staff of the experimental pig unit at Moorepark and to Siobhan Collins and Caroline La Marle for their help with data
collection.
References
Aarnink, A.J.A., Schrama, J.W., Heetkamp, M.J.W., Stefanowska, J., Huynh,
T.T.T., 2006. Temperature and body weight affect fouling of pig pens.
J. Anim. Sci. 84, 2224–2231.

Arey, D.S., Edwards, S.A., 1998. Factors influencing aggression between
sows after mixing and the consequences for welfare and production.
Livest. Prod. Sci. 56, 61–70.
Barnett, J.L., Hemsworth, P.H., Cronin, G.M., Newman, E.A., McCallum, T.H.,
Chilton, D., 1992. Effects of pen size, partial stalls and method of
feeding on welfare-related behavioural and physiological responses
of group-housed pigs. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 34, 207–220.
Barnett, J.L., Hemsworth, P.H., Cronin, G.M., Jongman, E.C., Hutson, G.D.,
2001. A review of the welfare issues for sows and piglets in relation
to housing. Aust. J. Agric. Res. 52, 1–28.
Bøe, K.E., Andersen, I.L., Buisson, L., Simensen, E., Jeksrud, W.K., 2007.
Flooring preferences in dairy goats at moderate and low ambient
temperature. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 108, 45–57.
Bonde, M., Rousing, T., Badsberg, H., Sørensen, H.T., 2004. Associations
between lying-down behaviour problems and body condition, limb
disorders and skin lesions of lactating sows housed in farrowing crates
in commercial sow herds. Livest. Prod. Sci. 87, 179–187.
Boyle, L.A., Regan, D., Leonard, F.C., Lynch, P.B., Brophy, P., 2000. The effect
of mats on the welfare of sows and piglets in the farrowing house.
Anim. Welfare 9, 39–48.
Boyle, L.A., Leonard, F.C., Lynch, P.B., Brophy, P., 2002. The influence of
housing system on skin lesion scores, behaviour and responses to an
ACTH challenge in pregnant gilts. Ir. J. Agric. Food Res. 41, 181–200.
Boyle, L.A., Llamas Moya, S., 2003. Effect of covering slatted floors with
mats on the behaviour and welfare of loose housed sows at mixing.
In: Proceedings of the 37th International Congress of the International
Society for Applied Ethology, p. 198.
Calderón Díaz, J.A., Fahey, A.G., KilBride, A.L., Green, L.E., Boyle, L.A., 2013.
Longitudinal study of the effect of rubber slat mats on locomotory
ability, body, limb and claw lesions and dirtiness of group housed
sows. J. Anim. Sci. 91, 3940–3954.
de Koning, R., 1985. On the well being of dry sows. In: Ph.D. Dissertation.
University of Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands.
Dewey, C.E., 2006. Diseases of the nervous and locomotor systems. In:
Straw, B.E., Zimmerman, J.J., D’Allaire, S., Taylor, D.J. (Eds.), Diseases of
Swine. , ninth ed. Blackwell Publishing Professional, Ames, Iowa, USA,
pp. 87–112.
Elmore, M.R.P., Garner, J.P., Johnson, A.K., Richert, B., 2010. A flooring comparison: the impact of rubber mats on the health, behaviour, and
welfare of group-housed sows at breeding. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci.
123, 7–15.
Ekkel, E.D., Spoodel, H.A.M., Hulsegge, I., Hopster, H., 2003. Lying characteristics as determinants for space requirements in pigs. Appl. Anim.
Behav. Sci. 80, 19–30.
Faerevik, G., Andersen, I.L., Bøe, K.E., 2005. Preference of sheep for different
types of pen flooring. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 90, 265–276.
Gillman, C.E., KilBride, A.L., Ossent, P., Green, L.E., 2008. A cross-sectional
study of the prevalence and associated risk factors for bursitis in
weaner, grower and finisher pigs from 93 commercial farms in
England. Prev. Vet. Med. 83, 308–322.
Gonyou, H.W., 1986. Assessment of comfort and well-being in farm animals. J. Anim. Sci. 62, 1769–1775.
Gordon, G.D.H., Crockram, M.S., 1995. A comparison of wooden slats
and straw bedding on the behaviour of sheep. Anim. Welfare 4,
131–134.
Haley, D.B., de Passille´ı, A.M., Rushen, J., 2001. Assessing cow comfort:
effects of two floor types and two tie stall designs on the behaviour of
lactating dairy cows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 71, 105–117.
Heinonen, M., Oravainen, J., Orro, T., Seppa-Lassila, L., Ala-Kurikka, E., Virolainen, J., Tast, A., Peltoniemi, O.A.T., 2006. Lameness and fertility of
sows and gilts in randomly selected loose-housed herds in Finland.
Vet. Rec. 159, 383–387.
KilBride, A.L., Gillman, C.E., Ossent, P., Green, L.E., 2008. A cross-sectional
study of the prevalence and associated risk factors for capped hock
and the associations with bursitis in weaner, grower and finisher pigs
from 93 commercial farms in England. Prev. Vet. Med. 83, 272–284.
KilBride, A.L., Gillman, C.E., Green, L.E., 2009. A cross-sectional study of the
prevalence of lameness in finishing pigs, gilts and pregnant sows and
associations with limb lesions and floor types on commercial farms in
England. Anim. Welfare 18, 215–224.
KilBride, A.L., Gillman, C.E., Green, L.E., 2010. A cross-sectional study of
the prevalence and risk factors for foot lesions and abnormal posture
in lactating sows on commercial farms in England. Anim. Welfare 19,
473–480.
Main, D.C., Clegg, J., Spatz, A., Green, L.E., 2000. Repeatability of a scoring
system for finishing pigs. Vet. Rec. 147, 574–576.
Marchant-Forde, R.M., Marchant-Forde, J.N., 2004. Pregnancy-related
changes in behavior and cardiac activity in primiparous pigs. Physiol.
Behav. 82, 815–825.

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

G Model
APPLAN-3830; No. of Pages 11

ARTICLE IN PRESS
J.A.C. Díaz, L.A. Boyle / Applied Animal Behaviour Science xxx (2013) xxx–xxx

Mouttotou, N., Hatchell, F.M., Green, L.E., 1998. Adventitious bursitis of the
hock in finishing pigs: prevalence, distribution and association with
floor type and foot lesions. Vet. Rec. 142, 109–114.
Noblet, J., Dourmad, J.Y., Le Dividich, J., Dubois, S., 1989. Effect of ambient
temperature and addition of straw of alfalfa in the diet on energy
metabolism in pregnant sow. Livest. Prod. Sci. 21, 309.
O’Connell, M.K., Lynch, P.B., Bertholot, S., Verlait, F., Lawlor, P.G., 2007.
Measuring changes in physical size and predicting weight of sows
during gestation. Animal 1, 1335–1343.
Philipot, J.M., Pluvinage, P., Cimarosti, I., Sulpice, P., Bugnard, F., 1994. Risk
factors of dairy cow lameness associated with housing conditions. Vet.
Res. 25, 244–248.
Platz, S., Ahren, F., Bendel, J., Meyer, H.H.D., Erhard, M.H., 2008. What happens with cow behaviour when replacing concrete slatted floor by
rubber coating: a case study. J. Dairy Sci. 91, 999–1004.
Sadler, L.J., Johnson, A.K., Lonergan, S.M., Nettleton, D., Dekkers, J.C.M.,
2011. The effect of selection for residual feed intake on general behavioral activity and the occurrence of lesions in Yorkshire gilts. J. Anim.
Sci. 89, 258–266.
Schulze Westerath, H., Gygax, L., Mayer, C., Wechsler, B., 2007. Leg lesions
and cleanliness of finishing bulls kept in housing systems with different lying area surfaces. Vet. J. 174, 77–85.
Scott, K., Chennells, D.J., Campbell, F.M., Hunt, B., Armstrong, D., Taylor, L., Gill, B.P., Edwards, S.A., 2006. The welfare of finishing pigs in

11

two contrasting housing systems: fully-slatted versus straw-bedded
accommodation. Livest. Sci. 103, 104–115.
Stanek, C., 1997. Tendons and tendon sheaths. In: Greenough, P.R., Weaver,
A.D. (Eds.), Lameness in Cattle. WB Saunders Company, Philadelphia,
PA, pp. 188–194.
Stukenborg, A., 2011. Investigations on agonistic behaviour in pigs kept
under commercial farm conditions. In: Ph.D. Dissertation. ChristianAlbrechts-Universität, Kiel, Germany.
Tuyttens, F.A.M., 2005. The importance of straw for pig and cattle welfare:
a review. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 92, 261–282.
Tuyttens, F.A.M., Wouters, F., Struelens, E., Sonck, B., Duchateau, L., 2008.
Synthetic lying mats may improve lying comfort of gestating sows.
Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 114, 76–85.
von Wachenfelt, H., Pinzke, S., Nilsson, C., Olsson, O., Ehlorsson, C.J., 2008.
Gait analysis of unprovoked pig gait on clean and fouled concrete
surfaces. Biosystems Eng. 101, 376–382.
Welfare Quality® Consortium, 2009. Welfare Quality® Assessment Protocol for Pigs, 2009. Welfare Quality® Consortium, Lelystad, The
Netherlands.
Zurbrigg, K., Blackwell, T., 2006. Injuries, lameness, and cleanliness of sows
in four group-housing gestation facilities in Ontario. Swine Health
Prod. 14 (4), 202–206.

Please cite this article in press as: Díaz, J.A.C., Boyle, L.A., Effect of rubber slat mats on the behaviour and welfare of group
housed pregnant sows. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. (2013), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2013.11.016

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful