Nicolas Devillers

Image Nicolas Devillers
Research Scientist in pig behaviour and welfare

Current research and/or projects

I'm a research scientist specialised in pig behaviour and welfare. In the last years, my research has mainly focused on the impact of housing and management, including human-animal relationship, on maternal behaviour of lactating sows and social and cognitive development of piglets. I've also worked on the developement of methods for the assessement of welfare of sows and piglets. More recently, I started a research program on alternative production systems, such as pasture-based systems.

Research and/or project statements

Development of an experimental platform on agroecological mixed crop-poly-livestock production systems:

  • Documenting the transition process from a conventional livestock production system to an agroecological mixed crop-poly-livestock production system, and the impacts of this transformation on biodiversity, soil health and the agronomic and environmental performance of plants and animals.
  • To develop a mixed agro-ecological crop-livestock production system in which the primary purpose of the crops is to feed humans and the animals are fed on resources that cannot be used for human consumption.
  • To determine the place and role of animals in this type of system, while promoting animal health and welfare.
  • To develop a research platform on agroecological mixed cropping-poly-livestock production systems, enabling the linking of in-situ experiments on biodiversity, water management, agroforestry, crop management and animal management (pigs, ruminants) on pasture.

Analysis of alternative integrated crop/livestock production systems using life cycle assessment

  • Model integrated agro-ecological crop/livestock production systems to determine their environmental efficiency, as well as potential levers for improvement, using a life cycle analysis from farm to fork.
  • Evaluate the efficiency of these alternative production systems and networks by socio-economic analysis at the farm level, but also downstream by considering the processing, transport, storage and distribution of food products.

Potential of outdoor systems as an alternative to pork conventional production:

  • Survey of economic and technical characteristics of alternative swine production systems
  • Gestating sow preferences for fresh and dry forages
  • Value of fresh or dry forage in the feeding of outdoor gestating sows
  • Sow preference based on forage conservation mode
  • Impact of different types of farrowing huts on the behaviour and performance of sows and their piglets at pasture
  • Strategies for managing high temperature at pasture

Impact of early experience with humans on the human-animal relationship in piglets

  • Development of behavioural tests to assess human reactivity of piglets and a conditioning protocol to associate humans with positive or negative stimuli
  • Process of human recognition and generalization in piglets following positive and/or negative conditioning
  • Emotions and cognitive bias in weaned piglets as a result of human experience

Professional activities / interests

  • Ethology / Animal behaviour
  • Swine
  • Alternative production systems
  • Animal welfare
  • Maternal behaviour
  • Agroecology
  • Agroecological mixed crop-livestock production systems

Key publications

  1. Théau, J., Lauzier-Hudon, É., Aubé, L., Devillers, N. (2021). Estimation of forage biomass and vegetation cover in grasslands using UAV imagery. PLoS ONE, [online] 16(1 January),

    2021 - View publication details

  2. Devillers, N., Yan, X., Dick, K.J., Zhang, Q., Connor, L. (2020). Determining an effective slat and gap width of flooring for group sow housing, considering both sow comfort and ease of manure management. Livestock Science, [online] 242

    2020 - View publication details

  3. Tallet, C., Courboulay, V., Devillers, N., Meunier-Salaün, M.C., Prunier, A., Villain, A. (2020). Toward a better knowledge of pig behaviour for a good relationship with humans in farms. INRAE Productions Animales, [online] 33(2), 84-94.

    2020 - View publication details

  4. Prunier A., Devillers N., Herskin M.S., Sandercock D.A., Sinclair A.R.L., Tallet C., von Borell E. 2020. Husbandry interventions in suckling piglets, painful consequences and mitigation. In: The suckling and weaning piglet (Farmer C., Ed.), Wageningen Academic Publishers (Wagneningen, The Netherlands), pp. 107-138.

    2020 - View publication details

  5. Faucitano, L., Conte, S., Pomar, C., Paiano, D., Duan, Y., Zhang, P., Drouin, G., Rina, S., Guay, F., Devillers, N. (2020). Application of extended feed withdrawal time preslaughter and its effects on animal welfare and carcass and meat quality of enriched-housed pigs. Meat Science, [online] 167

    2020 - View publication details

  6. Tallet, C., Hötzel, M.J., Devillers, N. 2020. Fearfulness. In: Pigs welfare in practice (Ed. I. Camerlink). Sheffield, UK, 5m Publishing: 62-63.

    2020 - View publication details

  7. Brajon, S., Ahloy-Dallaire, J., Devillers, N., Guay, F. (2020). The role of genetic selection on agonistic behavior and welfare of gestating sows housed in large semi-static groups. Animals, [online] 10(12), 1-20.

    2020 - View publication details

  8. Aubé, L., Guay, F., Bergeron, R., Bélanger, G., Tremblay, G.F., Devillers, N. (2019). Sows' preferences for different forage mixtures offered as fresh or dry forage in relation to botanical and chemical composition. Animal, [online] 13(12), 2885-2895.

    2019 - View publication details

  9. Aubé, L., Guay, F., Bergeron, R., Bélanger, G., Tremblay, G.F., Devillers, N. (2019). Sows prefer forages conserved as haylage over hay and fresh forage. Livestock Science, [online] 228 93-96.

    2019 - View publication details

  10. Rocha, L.M., Devillers, N., Maldague, X., Kabemba, F.Z., Fleuret, J., Guay, F., Faucitano, L. (2019). Validation of anatomical sites for the measurement of infrared body surface temperature variation in response to handling and transport. Animals, [online] 9(7),

    2019 - View publication details

  11. Devillers, N., Janvier, E., Delijani, F., Méthot, S., Dick, K.J., Zhang, Q., Connor, L. (2019). Effect of slat and gap width of slatted concrete flooring on sow gait using kinematics analysis. Animals, [online] 9(5),

    2019 - View publication details

  12. Beaudoin, J.M., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N., Laforest, J.P. (2019). Growing pigs’ interest in enrichment objects with different characteristics and cleanliness. Animals, [online] 9(3),

    2019 - View publication details

  13. Pereira, T.L., Titto, E.A.L., Conte, S., Devillers, N., Sommavilla, R., Diesel, T., Dalla Costa, F.A., Guay, F., Friendship, R., Crowe, T., Faucitano, L. (2018). Application of a ventilation fan-misting bank on pigs kept in a stationary trailer before unloading: Effects on trailer microclimate, and pig behaviour and physiological response. Livestock Science, [online] 216 67-74.

    2018 - View publication details

  14. Nutritional value of pasture and dry-forage, and foraging behaviour in outdoor gestating sow

    2018 - View publication details

  15. Effect of design of outdoor farrowing hut on environment inside the hut, and sows and piglets performance and welfare

    2018 - View publication details

  16. Brajon, S., Ringgenberg, N., Torrey, S., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N. (2017). Impact of prenatal stress and environmental enrichment prior to weaning on activity and social behaviour of piglets (Sus scrofa). Applied Animal Behaviour Science, [online] 197 15-23.

    2017 - View publication details

  17. Aubé L., Guay F., Bergeron R., Bélanger G., Tremblay G., Devillers N. 2018. Sows' preferences for different fresh and dry mixed forages. 13th North-American regional meeting of the International Society for Applied Ethology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, 12-13 May 2017, p.37.

    2017 - View publication details

  18. Brajon, S., Ringgenberg, N., Torrey, S., Bergeron, R., and Devillers, N. (2016). "Effects of prenatal stress and postnatal enrichment on exploration and social behaviour of suckling piglets.", 50th congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, Edinburgh, UK, 12-16 July, 2016, pp. 196. (Abstract)

    2016 - View publication details

  19. Devillers, N., Delijani, F., Janvier, E., Méthot, S., Dick, K., Zhang, Q., and Connor, L. (2016). "Impact of slat and gap widths of concrete slatted floor on sow gait using kinematics.", Banff Pork Seminar 2016, Banff, AB, Canada, January 12-14, 2016.

    2016 - View publication details

  20. Dalla Costa, F.A., Devillers, N., Paranhos da Costa, M.J.R., Faucitano, L. (2016). Effects of applying preslaughter feed withdrawal at the abattoir on behaviour, blood parameters and meat quality in pigs. Meat Science, [online] 119 89-94.

    2016 - View publication details

Research facility

2000 College Street
Sherbrooke, QC J1M 0C8


International Society for Applied Ethology

Société Québécoise pour l'Étude Biologique du Comportement

Adjunct Professor, Département des Sciences Animales, Université Laval (QC)

Adjunct Professor, Department of Animal Science, University of Manitoba (MB)

Adjunct Professor, Department of Environment and Geography, Bishop's University (QC)