CATEGORY: Feed Additives
AUTHORS: Oostindjer M., Bolhuis J.E., Simon K., van den Brand H.and Kemp B.
BOOK/JOURNAL:PLoS ONE 6(10): e25318. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025318
Perinatal flavour learning through the maternal diet is known to enhance flavour preference and acceptance of flavoured food in many species, yet still little is known about the mechanism underlying perinatal flavour learning. Previously we found positive effects of perinatal flavour learning on food intake, growth and behaviour of piglets postweaning, but no increased preference for the flavour. This suggests that flavour learning in pigs works through a reduction of weaning stress by the presence of the familiar flavour instead. The aim of this study was to investigate whether perinatal flavour learning reduces stress at weaning, and whether the effect is stronger when the familiar flavour is present in the food. Sows were offered an anethol-flavoured diet (Flavour treatment) or control diet (Control treatment) during late gestation and lactation. Flavour and Control piglets were provided with anethol either in their food (Food treatment) or in the air (Air treatment) after weaning. Preweaning and postweaning treatments did not affect food intake, preference or growth in the first two weeks postweaning but flavour treatment reduced the latency to eat (24 versus 35 hours, P = 0.02) and within-pen variation in growth (SD within-pen: 0.7 versus 1.2 kg, P<0.001). Salivary cortisol levels tended to be lower four and seven hours postweaning for Flavour piglets compared to Control piglets (4 hours: 2.5 versus 3.0 ng/ml, P = 0.05, 7 hours: 3.1 versus 3.4 ng/ml, P = 0.08). Flavour piglets played more and showed less damaging behaviours than Control piglets, indicating that the familiar flavour reduced stress around weaning. Few interaction effects were found between preweaning and postweaning treatment, and no effects of postweaning treatment. We conclude that in the newly weaned pig, perinatal flavour learning results in a reduction of stress when the familiar flavour is present, regardless of providing the flavour in the food or in the air.