Handling Ease and Behavior Enhancement in Sinclair Miniature Swine

Authors

Rivard, G., Brocksmith, D., Jimenez, C., Stewart, I., Bouchard, G.F.

Abstract

Sinclair has developed a unique behavior enhancement system (BES™) program for its miniature swine (MS).One of the BES components consists of behavioral training to condition a MS, to cooperate rather than experience anxiety and fear over a procedure. We like to think of it as the BES way to improve the MS welfare and handling-ease because it changes its interaction with humans. This Bulletin seeks to inform you about the common threats that elicit resistance-to-handling. Also, we propose positive reinforcement training (+R) to improve welfare and handling-ease. Avoid any punishments, reprimands, or corrections; and perform a routine in a highly enthusiastic and playful manner so that, when repeated multiple times, it becomes highly predictable, safe, and pleasurable for the MS. By repetition, the MS will learn the formula: your request plus its response equals its reward. If not or if the MS becomes fearful or resists to handling, then ignore the ‘bad’ behavior and go back to basics. Ignoring means no looking (including direct, prolonged or challenging eyes contact); no touching (including hitting and body pushing or blocking); no talking (including yelling, saying ‘no’ or ‘what-not-to-do’); and no moving (simply stand still and ‘be like a tree’ with your hands on your side). Once calm and looking for your attention, redirect the MS by requesting a previously learned basic behavior such as a target-touch. Then, start the training process from a previous step when he was calm so that MS remains calm. If not, give the MS a time-out period.

Before introducing a new behavior, make sure to review and reinforce all the basics and the prior lessons before starting anew. It will refresh the MS memory and give you both confidence. Teach new rewarding behaviors incrementally. All along, be careful as mixed signals, lack of reinforcement, and going too fast are the culprits of ‘good’ training.

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