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pigs faceWelfare implications and preference of manipulable environmental enrichments provided to farmed American mink (Neovison vison) kits


Year: 2021

Meridyth Hardy
Dalhousie University, Canada

Supervisor(s): Dr Rebecca Meagher


 

The aim of this study was to determine whether providing environmental enrichments to American Mink kits (Neovison vison) can improve welfare on fur farms. The study also aimed to identify which enrichments are most desirable to mink kits. This on-farm study involved an initial total of 222 adult mink females from three major colour types: demi, mahogany and dark. A total of 505 mink kits from 104 different litters were then followed from the age of 0-15 weeks. The study had two different treatments in the addition to the control. The first treatment was enriched during whelping (EW) and was provided three different nesting material enrichments: aspen shavings, paper pet bedding and a hanging sisal rope. The second treatment was enriched as kits (EK) and was provided a mix of two different hanging objects (sisal rope or a plastic chain), in addition to four different manipulable enrichments (a pig’s ear, field hockey ball, whiffle ball or golf ball). The provided environmental enrichments were not found to improve kit welfare when housed in groups. However, temperament test results indicate that kit welfare decreased when placed in single housing. Both the EK and EW treatments were shown to improve the welfare of single housed mink as fearful temperaments decreased while curious temperaments increased compared to the control. Enrichments which were more readily manipulable by the kits were shown to be highly desirable. The most desirable provided enrichments were the sisal rope and pig’s ear.