• Damaging Behaviour and Associated Lesions in Relation to Types of Enrichment for Finisher Pigs on Commercial Farms

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 11/S/107 (MDPI AG, 2019-09-12)
      EU legislation states that all pigs must have access to material that allows them to perform investigation and manipulation activities, thereby reducing the risk of pigs performing damaging behaviours (e.g., tail, ear and flank biting). We aimed to determine associations between damaging behaviours performed by finisher pigs, the related lesions and the use of different types of enrichment. Six randomly selected pens of finisher pigs were observed for 10 min each on 31 commercial pig farms in Ireland. All pigs were counted and the number of pigs affected by tail, ear and flank lesions was recorded. During the last 5 min, all occurrences of damaging behaviour (tail-, ear- and flank-directed behaviour) were recorded. The type (chain, plastic or wood) and number of accessible enrichment objects/pen was recorded. Chains were the most common (41.4% of farms), followed by plastic (37.9%) and wood (20.7%). Damaging behaviour was more frequent on farms that provided chains compared to plastic or wood. Farms with chains were associated with a higher frequency of flank-directed behaviour and tended to be associated with a higher frequency of tail-directed behaviour compared to farms that provided plastic devices. The prevalence of lesions tended to be higher on farms where chains were provided compared to wooden enrichment devices, mostly driven by a difference in the prevalence of mild tail lesions. Results support expert opinions that despite being commonly used, chains did not fulfill a role in reducing damaging behaviours and associated lesions in finisher pigs compared to other forms of enrichment.
    • The effect of mixing entire male pigs prior to transport to slaughter on behaviour, welfare and carcass lesions

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Teixeira, Dayane L.; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (2014-10-14)
      Research is needed to validate lesions recorded at meat inspection as indicators of pig welfare on farm. The aims were to determine the influence of mixing pigs on carcass lesions and to establish whether such lesions correlate with pig behaviour and lesions scored on farm. Aggressive and mounting behaviour of pigs in three single sex pens was recorded on Day −5, −2, and −1 relative to slaughter (Day 0). On Day 0 pigs were randomly allocated to 3 treatments (n = 20/group) over 5 replicates: males mixed with females (MF), males mixed with males (MM), and males unmixed (MUM). Aggressive and mounting behaviours were recorded on Day 0 at holding on farm and lairage. Skin/tail lesions were scored according to severity at the farm (Day −1), lairage, and on the carcass (Day 0). Effect of treatment and time on behaviour and lesions were analysed by mixed models. Spearman rank correlations between behaviour and lesion scores and between scores recorded at different stages were determined. In general, MM performed more aggressive behaviour (50.4 ± 10.72) than MUM (20.3 ± 9.55, P < 0.05) and more mounting (30.9 ± 9.99) than MF (11.4 ± 3.76) and MUM (9.8 ± 3.74, P < 0.05). Skin lesion scores increased between farm (Day −1) and lairage (P < 0.001), but this tended to be significant only for MF and MM (P = 0.08). There was no effect of treatment on carcass lesions and no associations were found with fighting/mounting. Mixing entire males prior to slaughter stimulated mounting and aggressive behaviour but did not influence carcass lesion scores. Carcass skin/tail lesions scores were correlated with scores recorded on farm (rskin = 0.21 and rtail = 0.18, P < 0.01) suggesting that information recorded at meat inspection could be used as indicators of pig welfare on farm.
    • Multi-Stakeholder Focus Groups on Potential for Meat Inspection Data to Inform Management of Pig Health and Welfare on Farm

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Doyle, Bernadette; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 11/S/107 (MDPI AG, 2019-02-19)
      Meat inspection (MI) findings can act as a valuable source of information on pig health and welfare. The PIG WELFare INDicators (PIGWELFIND) project (Research Stimulus Fund 11/S/107) was developed to progress the development of ante and post mortem MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool in Ireland. Three multi-stakeholder focus groups were organized to explore areas of conflict and agreement between stakeholders’ vision for including pig health and welfare indicators in MI and on how to achieve this vision. Each focus group consisted of eight stakeholders: pig producers, Teagasc pig advisors, pig processors, veterinarians involved in MI, private veterinary practitioners, and personnel with backgrounds in general animal health and welfare and food safety policy. In general, stakeholders expressed positive attitudes towards the use of MI data to inform pig health and welfare when standardization of recording and feedback is improved, and the MI system provides real-time benchmarking possibilities. Most emphasis was placed on health indicators as a first priority, while it was felt that welfare-related indicators could be included after practical barriers had been addressed (i.e., line speed/feasibility, standardization and training of meat inspectors, data ownership). Recommendations are made to further progress the development of MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool and address some of these barriers.
    • Prevalence of welfare outcomes in the weaner and finisher stages of the production cycle on 31 Irish pig farms

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Calderón Díaz, Julia A.; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 11/S/107 (Biomed Central, 2018-03-27)
      Background Knowledge on the most prevalent welfare problems for pigs in different production stages is required to improve herd management plans. Thirty-one farrow-to-finish pig farms were visited between July and November 2015 to assess the welfare of pigs using the multicriteria approach of the Welfare Quality® protocol. On each farm, 6 pens were selected using proportionate stratified sampling in the first weaner (S1, 4 to 8 wks), second weaner (S2, 8 to 13 wks) and finisher stage (S3, 13 to 23 wks), excluding hospital pens. Each pen was observed for 10 min and the number of pigs affected by different welfare outcomes was recorded. The percentage of pigs affected was calculated and ranked to identify the most prevalent outcomes within each production stage. Differences between production stages were analysed using generalised linear mixed models for binomial data with pen within stage and farm as a random effect. Results Tail and ear lesions showed the highest prevalence; however, large variation was observed between farms. In S1 the most prevalent welfare outcomes (presented as median prevalence) were poor body condition (4.4%), lethargic pigs (1.5%), scouring (20.3% of pens) and huddling (3.7%). In S2 and S3 outcomes related to injurious behaviour (tail lesions: 5.9% [S2] and 10.5% [S3], ear lesions: 9.1% [S2] and 3.3% [S3], and flank lesions: 0.4% [S2] and 1.3% [S3]), lameness (0.8% [S2] and 1.1% [S3]), bursitis (3.9% [S2] and 7.5% [S3]) and hernias (1.6% [S2] and 1.8% [S3]) were more prevalent. Conclusions A large variation was observed for the recorded welfare outcomes corresponding to the different challenges pigs experience during the different stages of production on commercial pig farms. The prevalence of pigs affected by lesions caused by injurious behavior is a cause for concern and requires a collaborative approach to identify appropriate intervention strategies. This information could be used to further investigate appropriate benchmark values for different welfare outcomes that would assist the pig industry to develop appropriate health and welfare management plans to minimise welfare problems. At herd level such plans should include information on aspects of intervention, treatment, and the management of hospital pens as well as euthanasia.
    • Relationship between tail lesions and lung health in slaughter pigs

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Vale, Ana P.; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Teixeira, Dayane L.; Leonard, Finola C.; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; VCI Educational Trust Fund; RSF 11/S/107 (Elsevier, 2016-03-10)
      Tail lesions are associated with poor health either because they serve as a point of entry for pathogens or because of shared risk factors. This study investigated the relationship between carcass tail lesion and lung lesion severity scores in slaughter pigs. Carcasses were scored after scalding/dehairing for tail lesion severity (0–4). Lungs were scored according to an adapted version of the BPEX pig health scheme. Severity of enzootic pneumonia (EP-like lesions) was recorded on a scale of 0–50. Severity of pleurisy was scored on a 0–2 scale with score 2 equating to severe pleurisy or those lungs that remained attached to the chest wall (‘lungs in chest’). The database for assessing pleurisy lesions contained all pleurisy scores (n = 5628). Lungs with a score of 2 for pleurisy were excluded from the analysis of all other lung lesions as such lungs could not be assessed for other lesions (n = 4491). Associations between tail lesions and different lung lesion outcomes were analysed using generalized linear mixed models (PROC GLIMMIX) with random effect for batch. Males were more affected by moderate (OR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.51–2.34) and severe (OR = 5.8, 95% CI 3.45–9.70) tail lesions than females. EP-like lesions and pleurisy were most commonly observed. Pigs with severe tail lesions tended to have more ‘lungs in chest’ than pigs with moderate tail lesions (P = 0.1). No other associations between tail lesions and lung lesions were found. Males had higher odds of having EP-like lesions (OR = 1.2, 95% CI 1.05–1.36) than females. Tail lesions on the carcass may not be an accurate predictor of lung health. However, tail lesions are important welfare indicators and respiratory disease is a significant infectious condition affecting pigs. Thus, recording of tail and lung lesions at meat inspection provides valuable information regarding on-farm health and welfare of pigs.