Social Requirements

Assessing physical space requirements is comparatively easy as compared to assessing the social requirements of livestock. This is due to our inability to fully understand the complexity of social interactions and animal communication. All livestock species are gregarious. A significant amount of work has been conducted on optimal group size for livestock. To date, no clear recommendation exists. The complex nature of groups created by the total number in the group, complexity of the space, genetic composition, gender composition, etc. all contribute to social interactions and whether the social needs of the animals are being met. Some signs that the animals needs are not being met, either socially or physically are performance of abnormal behavior, poor productivity, excessive injury, excessive cull rates, and poor reproductive rates. For example, Deen and Xue[5] found that farm cull rates increased from 8 to 14% between the years 1996 and 1998. At the same time, Geiger, Irwin, and Pretzer[6] found that muscular-skeletal problems, gastrointestinal problems, and reproductive failure were the main causes for death in the sow herd. These data indicate a mismatch between swine and their environment, but whether the mismatch is due mainly to the physical or social environment is not yet clear.

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