• Adding value to food chain information: using data on pig welfare and antimicrobial use on-farm to predict meat inspection outcomes

      Pessoa, Joana; McAloon, Conor; Rodrigues da Costa, Maria; García Manzanilla, Edgar; Norton, Tomas; Boyle, Laura; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme; Meat Industry Ireland (Biomed Central, 2021-10-14)
      Background Using Food Chain Information data to objectively identify high-risk animals entering abattoirs can represent an important step forward towards improving on-farm animal welfare. We aimed to develop and evaluate the performance of classification models, using Gradient Boosting Machine algorithms that utilise accurate longitudinal on-farm data on pig health and welfare to predict condemnations, pluck lesions and low cold carcass weight at slaughter. Results The accuracy of the models was assessed using the area under the receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve (AUC). The AUC for the prediction models for pneumonia, dorsocaudal pleurisy, cranial pleurisy, pericarditis, partial and total condemnations, and low cold carcass weight varied from 0.54 for pneumonia and 0.67 for low cold carcass weight. For dorsocaudal pleurisy, ear lesions assessed on pigs aged 12 weeks and antimicrobial treatments (AMT) were the most important prediction variables. Similarly, the most important variable for the prediction of cranial pleurisy was the number of AMT. In the case of pericarditis, ear lesions assessed both at week 12 and 14 were the most important variables and accounted for 33% of the Bernoulli loss reduction. For predicting partial and total condemnations, the presence of hernias on week 18 and lameness on week 12 accounted for 27% and 14% of the Bernoulli loss reduction, respectively. Finally, AMT (37%) and ear lesions assessed on week 12 (15%) were the most important variables for predicting pigs with low cold carcass weight. Conclusions The findings from our study show that on farm assessments of animal-based welfare outcomes and information on antimicrobial treatments have a modest predictive power in relation to the different meat inspection outcomes assessed. New research following the same group of pigs longitudinally from a larger number of farms supplying different slaughterhouses is required to confirm that on farm assessments can add value to Food Chain Information reports.
    • Ear, tail and skin lesions vary according to different production flows in a farrow-to-finish pig farm

      Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; García Manzanilla, Edgar; Leonard, Finola C; Calderón Díaz, Julia A; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/832 (Biomed Central, 2019-07-15)
      Background Pig performance and risk of disease are associated with production flow. Given the link between health and welfare, it is likely that animal welfare indicators are also associated with production flow. This study investigated the association between production flow and tail, ear and skin lesions on a farm with a purported ‘all-in/all-out’ policy. This was an observational study whereby pigs were managed according to routine farm practice. A total of 1,016 pigs born within 1 week from the same batch were followed through the production stages and the presence or absence of welfare indicators was recorded at 4, 7, 9, 12, 16 and 24 weeks of age. Three production flows were retrospectively identified: flow 1 = ‘normal’ pigs that advanced through the production stages together ‘on time’, flow 2 = pigs delayed from advancing from the 1st to the 2nd nursery stage by 1 week and flow 3 = pigs delayed from advancing through the production stages by > 1 week. A nested case control design was applied by matching pigs by sow parity, number of born alive and birth weight. Results The presence of ear lesions was 4.5 less likely in pigs in flow 2 and 2.9 times less likely in pigs in flow 3 (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 1. Pigs in flow 3 were 2.2 more likely to have tail and 1.6 times more likely to have ear lesions (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 2. Pigs in flow 2 were less likely to have tail lesions compared with pigs in flow 1 (P < 0.05). Differences between production flows for the risk of skin lesions varied according to age (P < 0.05). Conclusion All production flows were associated with a high risk of lesions which raises concerns for pig welfare. However, risks for ear, tail and skin lesions varied according to each production flow likely due to the specific management practices inherent to each flow. Results from this study could be used to modify existing management practices, thus leading to improvements in animal welfare and possibly performance in intensive pig systems.
    • Irish pig farmer's perceptions and experiences of tail and ear biting.

      Haigh, Amy; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Biomed Central, 2019-01-01)
      Abnormal behaviours such as ear and tail biting of pigs is of significant welfare and economic concern. Currently, pig welfare legislation is under renewed focus by the EU commission and is likely to be enforced more thoroughly. The legislation prohibits routine tail docking and requires adequate enrichment to be provided. In Ireland, tail-docking is still the most utilised control mechanism to combat tail biting, but biting is still widespread even in tail-docked pigs. In addition, as pig farms are almost all fully slatted, bedding type material cannot be provided. Thus, the opinions, and practices of farmers in countries like Ireland, which may need to make significant adaptations to typical pig management systems soon, need to be considered and addressed. We carried out a survey of pig farmers during 2015 in order to gain a greater understanding of the extent of biting on Irish farms, perception on the most important preventive measures, current enrichment use and actions following outbreaks. Fifty-eight farmers from 21 Counties responded with an average herd size of 710 ± 597 sows (range 90–3000 sows). Only two farms had experienced no biting in the last year. Of the farms that had experienced tail biting (88%), 86% had also experienced ear biting. The most common concerns relating to biting were condemnation and reduced productivity of bitten pigs with both receiving an average score of 4 (most serious). Ear biting occurred most commonly in the 2nd stage (approximately 47–81 days from weaning) weaner and tail biting in the finishing stage. The most important preventive measures were felt to be taking care of animal health, restricting density, maintaining an even quality of feed/content and maintaining good air movement. Sixty-five percent of respondents added additional enrichment following an outbreak. Chains were the most common form of enrichment currently used (83%). Those not using chains favoured wood, toys and rope (17%). Identification of the most effective and accessible control and prevention measures both for the animals and for the farming community is thus essential. Improved understanding of the concerns and practices of producers, which this survey contributes to, is a first step towards this aim.