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Soul for your sow? Researchers study pigs’ response to music

03 August 2022 - 09:46 By Reuters
Belgian researchers will study the effect music has on pigs. Stock image.
Belgian researchers will study the effect music has on pigs. Stock image.
Image: 123rf/Dmitry Kalinovsky

Scientists in Belgium are investigating a farmer’s claim that different styles of music affect the behaviour of his pigs.

Piet Paesmans noticed the phenomenon when his son started singing a tune in a barn during a sluggish insemination session. He said his sows seemed excited and started wagging their tails.

“I thought this is too good to pass up so we should try that with the other pigs too,” Paesmans said from his farm halfway between Brussels and the Dutch border.

He has created a playlist to coincide with different times of the day, playing energetic music when he wants the pigs to be active and lullabies at the end of the day.

“Jolly dance songs are the biggest hits. They start wagging their tails and when it's dynamic they even start dancing and frolicking. Rock music is too strong. They do not like it,” Paesmans said.

The farmer tipped off a team of researchers who have secured €75,000 euros (about R1.3m) financing from an EU fund and the Belgian region of Flanders to investigate the claims.

According to project coordinator Sander Palmans, not much is known about pigs’ reaction to music but Paesmans’ experience chimes with existing knowledge of the effects of sounds in general on animals.

“There is without a doubt an effect of specific noises on animals. It is possible music can have the same effect,” he said, adding that it could help relieve boredom which has been linked to stress.

The findings could have practical impacts for the industry as meat quality is affected by stress in animals, Paesmans said.

“A top athlete needs to be completely fit physically, but also mentally. That is the same for pigs. When they are slaughtered, you can see when they have had too much stress. It is important for the quality of the meat.”

The results of the research are expected by the end of the year.



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