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Pig Welfare Indicators More Visible in Abattoir

23 April 2015

ANALYSIS – Pig carcase inspections at abattoir level may be made more effective by scalding and dehairing processes, Northern Irish experts are suggesting.

Rather than obscuring or removing marks, these actions improve visibility of tail lesions, loin bruising and severe skin lesions, the British Society of Animal Science conference heard last week.

Mild or moderate lesions were, however, were made less visible by scalding, the Teagasc, Queens University Belfast and the School of Veterinary Medicine research showed. 

The team hopes the work, which surveyed nearly 4,000 pigs in two abattoirs, feeds back to farms and informs welfare assessments. 

Working on the study was Dr Niamh O’Connell, who said: “The long term goals is to show up persistent problems for farms - they will be submitting pigs every few weeks.”

She said scraping carcasses removed chunks of flesh but did not cause any scratch marks.

And while the nature of the assessment was retrospective, she sees abattoir observation as a means of benchmarking animal welfare standards.

“We know its too late for the pigs being assessed but it does address problems and allow farms to see how they compare to other farms.”

She added: “The results also suggest there would be both welfare and economic advantages to reducing levels of harmful social and aggressive behaviour in pigs.”

Such lesions are a proxy measure for aggressive behaviour, with markings indicative of the nature of aggression depending where on the carcass they can be found.

This is according to PhD student Suzanne Desire at the SRUC, Scotland’s Rural College, who told the conference that aggressive traits have low to moderate heritabilities.

“There is correlation between skin lesions and aggression but no one has calculated this link,” said Mrs Desire, prefacing her own study into selecting commercial pigs.

“Lesions counted at the front come from reciprocal aggression, lesions at the rear signal that a pig has been attacked – lesions in the centre of the body can mean a bit of both.”

Michael Priestley

Michael Priestley
News Team - Editor

Michael joined 5m Publishing in October 2012 as editor of the TheCattleSite, TheBeefSite and TheDairySite. He studied English Language and Linguistics at the University of Sheffield before graduating with his Postgraduate diploma in Land Management at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire. Michael grew up in North Yorkshire, England and worked on local livestock farms in his youth.

Top image via Shutterstock

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