Savaging

In animal science, savaging (from savage) is overt aggression, usually including cannibalistic infanticide of newborn offspring, by a mother animal. It is particularly prevalent among pigs, where it affects up to 5% of gilts (the technical term for a pig who has not previously borne a litter).

Some gilt attacks on the newborn piglets are non-fatal, while others involve the death and eventual consumption of the piglets by the mother. It is estimated that 50% of piglet fatality is due to the mother sow attacking or unintentionally crushing the newborn pre-weaned animals.

Pigs will sometimes attack other animals, including humans.

Savaging has a negative effect on pig farming. Efforts to eliminate it include additional care and attention to the mother pig. Aggressive behavior may be due to fear, discomfort, and unsanitary conditions. Control of the birthing process and human supervision are the best ways to prevent the mother from eating the young, but cost-effectiveness must also be considered.

Statistics indicate that cannibal mother pigs are usually repeat offenders. Thus, one method of prevention is to avoid use of past-offenders for breeding. Alternatively, placing experienced sows next to first-time mother gilts may discourage aggressive behavior.

Proper diet and nutrition decreases the likelihood of gilt cannibalism. Medication or hormones, such as mysoline, can also be given.

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