Nicolas Devillers

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

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

Key publications

Scientific Articles:

  • 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. Animal, 13:2885-2895.
  • 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, 228:93-96.
  • Rocha L.M., Devillers N., Maldague X., Kazemba 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, 9, 425. DOI:10.3390/ani9070425.
  • Devillers, N., Janvier, E., Delijani, F., Méthot, S., Dick, K.J., Zhang, Q., Connor, L. 2019. Impact of slat and gap width of concrete slatted flooring on sow gait using kinematics analysis. Animals, 9, 206. DOI:10.3390/ani9050206.
  • Beaudoin J.M., Bergeron R., Devillers N., Laforest J.P. 2019. Growing pigs’ interest in enrichment objects with different characteristics and cleanliness. Animals, 9, 85. DOI: 10.3390/ani9030085
  • 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, 216:67-74.
  • 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, 197:15-23.
  • Brajon S., Laforest J.-P., Schmitt O., Devillers N. 2016. A preliminary study of the effects of individual response to challenge tests and stress induced by humans on learning performance of weaned piglets (Sus scrofa). Behavioural Processes, 129: 27-36.
  • 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, 119:89-94.
  • Devillers N., Giraud D., Farmer C. 2016. Neonatal piglets are able to differentiate more productive from less productive teats. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 174:24-31.
  • Brajon S., Laforest J.-P., Bergeron R., Tallet C., Devillers N. 2015 The perception of humans by piglets: Recognition of familiar handlers and generalisation to unfamiliar humans. Animal Cognition, 18:1299-1316.
  • Conte S, Bergeron R, Gonyou H, Brown J, Rioja-Lang F. C.,Connor L, Devillers N. 2015. Use of an analgesic to identify pain-related indicators of lameness in sows. Livestock Science, 180: 203-208.
  • Brajon S., Laforest J.-P., Schmitt O., Devillers N. 2015. The way humans behave modulates the emotional state of piglets. PLoS ONE 10(8): e0133408. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0133408
  • Brajon S., Laforest J.-P., Bergeron R., Tallet C., Hӧtzel M.-J., Devillers N. 2015. Persistency of the piglet's reactivity to the handler following a previous positive or negative experience. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 162:9-19.

Book Chapters:

  • Tallet C., Brajon S., Devillers N, Lensink J. 2017. Pig-human interactions: Creating a positive perception of humans to ensure pig welfare (Chap. 13). In: Advances in Pig Welfare (Spinka M., Eds), Woodhead Publishing (Cambridge, UK), pp. 381-398.

Conferences proceedings:

  • Aubé L., Guay F., Bergeron R., Bélanger G., Tremblay G.F., Théau J., Edwards S., Guy, J., Devillers N. 2018. Nutritional value of pasture and dry-forage, and foraging behaviour in outdoor gestating sow. 2018 Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, July 30- August 3 2018, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.
  • Aubé L., Guay F., Bergeron R., Edwards S., Guy, J., Devillers N. 2018. Effect of design of outdoor farrowing hut on environment inside the hut, and sows and piglets performance and welfare. 2018 Congress of the International Society for Applied Ethology, July 30- August 3 2018, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.
  • Devillers N. 2018. Incorporating natural behavior in housing design and management of lactating sows. 2018 ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting & Trade show, July 8-12 2018, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
  • Aubé L., Guay F., Bergeron R., Bélanger G., Tremblay G.F., Devillers N. 2017. Sows’ preferences for different fresh and dry mixed forages. 13th North-America ISAE regional meeting, May 12-13, 2017, Ames, IA, USA. P.37.
  • Devillers, N., Delijani, F., Janvier, E., Méthot, S., Dick, K., Zhang, Q., 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. Advances in Pork Production Volume 27.
  • Brajon S., Ringgenberg N., Torrey S., Bergeron R., Devillers N. 2016. Effects of prenatal stress and postnatal enrichment on exploration and social behaviour of suckling piglets. ISAE congress, July 12- 16, 2016, Edinburgh, UK. P.196.

Research facility

2000 College Street
Sherbrooke, QC J1M 1Z3


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)