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. Genest-Richard P., Halde C., Breune I., Mundler P., Devillers N. 2024. Une caractérisation de l’élevage alternatif au Québec. 3ème congrès annuel du RQRAD (Réseau québécois de recherche en agriculture durable), 13-15 février 2024, Québec (QC). p136-137.

    2024 - View publication details

  2. Breune I., Genest-Richard P., Devillers N. 2024. Analyse de systèmes alternatifs de polyélevage québécois - Méthodologie de calcul des indicateurs agronomiques et environnementaux. Janvier 2024. Rapport, 23 pp.

    2024 - View publication details

  3. Yan, X., Zhang, Q., Connor, L., Devillers, N., Dick, K. (2023). A 2D stick model for simulation of sow walking on concrete floors and detection of sow lameness. Biosystems Engineering, [online] 226 99-115.

    2023 - View publication details

  4. Baert, S., Aubé, L., Haley, D.B., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N. (2022). The protective role of wallowing against heat stress in gestating and lactating sows housed outdoors. Physiology & Behavior, [online] 254

    2022 - View publication details

  5. Conrad, L., Aubé, L., Heuchan, E., Conte, S., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N. (2022). Effects of farrowing hut design on maternal and thermoregulatory behaviour in outdoor housed sows and piglets. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, [online] 251

    2022 - View publication details

  6. Baert, S., Aubé, L., Haley, D.B., Bergeron, R., Devillers, N. (2022). To wallow or nurse: Sows housed outdoors have distinctive approaches to thermoregulation in gestation and lactation. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, [online] 248

    2022 - View publication details

  7. Aubé, L., Guay, F., Bergeron, R., Bélanger, G., Tremblay, G.F., Edwards, S.A., Guy, J.H., Devillers, N. (2021). Feed restriction and type of forage influence performance and behaviour of outdoor gestating sows. Animal, [online] 15(10),

    2021 - View publication details

  8. Brajon, S., Ahloy-Dallaire, J., Devillers, N., Guay, F. (2021). Social status and previous experience in the group as predictors of welfare of sows housed in large semi-static groups. PLoS ONE, [online] 16(6 June),

    2021 - View publication details

  9. Kröbel, R., Stephens, E.C., Gorzelak, M.A., Thivierge, M.N., Akhter, F., Nyiraneza, J., Singer, S.D., Geddes, C.M., Glenn, A.J., Devillers, N., Alemu, A.W., St. Luce, M., Giardetti, D. (2021). Making farming more sustainable by helping farmers to decide rather than telling them what to do. Environmental Research Letters, [online] 16(5),

    2021 - View publication details

  10. Yan, X., Zhang, Q., Connor, L., Devillers, N., Dick, K. (2021). In-barn measurements of surface roughness and friction of slatted concrete floors in sow gestation rooms. Biosystems Engineering, [online] 205 137-145.

    2021 - View publication details

  11. Aubé, L., Guay, F., Bergeron, R., Théau, J., Devillers, N. (2021). Foraging behaviour of gestating sows on pasture and damages to vegetation cover are influenced by restriction of concentrate feed. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, [online] 237

    2021 - View publication details

  12. 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

  13. Rabhi, N., Thibodeau, A., Côté, J.-C., Devillers, N., Laplante, B., Fravalo, P., Larivière-Gauthier, G., Thériault, W.P., Faucitano, L., Beauchamp, G., Quessy, S.Association Between Tail-Biting and Intestinal Microbiota Composition in Pigs (2020) Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 7, art. no. 563762. DOI: 10.3389/fvets.2020.563762

    2020 - View publication details

  14. 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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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

  18. 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

  19. 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

  20. 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

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)