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Relationship between food deprivation before transport and aggression in pigs held in lairage before slaughter
  1. S. N. Brown, MIBiol1,
  2. T. G. Knowles, BSc, MSc, PhD1,
  3. J. E. Edwards, MRIPHH1 and
  4. P. D. Warriss, BSc, PhD, MIBiol, FIFST1
  1. 1 School of Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU


Pigs from three farms were deprived of food for up to one hour, 12 hours or 18 hours before being sent for slaughter. In lairage, the animals' behaviour was monitored, and at slaughter a blood sample was collected and analysed for cortisol, lactate and creatine phosphokinase, potential indicators of stress and physical activity. The carcases were assessed for skin damage as an index of fighting, and rigor in the hind leg as an indicator of stress and/or fatigue. Measurements were also made of cold carcase weight, backfat thickness and liver glycogen concentration. General activity was very high on entry to the lairage pen. Drinking and mounting occurred almost immediately. Fighting developed after an exploratory period, and could last up to 60 minutes. There were large differences in the behaviour of pigs from the three farms. Pigs from farm A fought frequently but showed little mounting activity, whereas pigs from farm C were involved in mounting but little fighting. The period of food deprivation had no effect on average skin damage or rigor score, but the frequency of carcases with the highest scores was different. The pigs deprived of food for up to an hour had the lowest incidence of severe skin damage and high rigor scores. Boars had a higher incidence of severe skin damage but a lower incidence of carcases with a high rigor score than gilts. Liver glycogen was almost completely depleted in the pigs deprived of food for 12 and 18 hours and was lower in the pigs deprived for up to an hour than in animals fed immediately before slaughter. The period of food deprivation had no effect on the levels of cortisol, creatine phosphokinase or lactate in the blood.

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