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Title: Validation of a behavioral observation tool to assess pig welfare
Authors: Smulders, Dennis ×
Verbeke, Geert
Mormède, P
Geers, Rony #
Issue Date: Oct-2006
Publisher: Pergamon Press
Series Title: Physiology & Behavior vol:89 issue:3 pages:438-447
Abstract: Accurately measuring and monitoring of animal behavior is an important factor when assessing on-farm animal welfare. First we developed a feasible and simple method aiming at consistently on-farm measuring of pig's behavior. This test should cover a broad range of welfare-related pig behavior. The reaction towards a novel object, startling, tail and ear biting, play and aggressive behavior, stereotypies, coughing, sneezing, skin lesions, defecation, urination and cleanliness of body and pen are included. The development of accurate measures of on-farm behavior first requires the reliability assessment of the procedure. Therefore, the methodology was tested in a first part by three observers scoring simultaneously and independently pre-defined behavioral characteristics of 108 group-housed fattening pigs. The inter-observer repeatability of the measures was calculated using intraclass correlation coefficients, which ranged from 0.7 to 1. In a second part, the objective was to validate the behavioral characteristics against salivary cortisol, urinary epinephrine and norepinephrine and production traits. Salivary cortisol concentrations significantly increased in ear-bitten pigs and in pigs with tail lesions. Growth rate significantly dropped when cortisol levels rose. An age effect was also found. The percentage of animals approaching the novel object is positively correlated with the urinary epinephrine concentration. Pigs defecating during the test showed significantly higher epinephrine levels. Urinary norepinephrine concentration decreased significantly with age. Faster growing animals and animals with tail lesions showed significantly higher levels of norepinephrine. Pen dirtiness and number of animals per pen were associated with higher norepinephrine concentrations. Finally, barrows had higher norepinephrine concentrations than sows.
URI: 
ISSN: 0031-9384
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Division of Livestock-Nutrition-Quality (-)
Leuven Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics Centre (L-BioStat)
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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