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'They're very intelligent animals': Researchers examine signs of stress in pigs' hair

A team of researchers at the University of Saskatchewan has been examining pigs' hair for signs of stress.

Yolande Seddon, assistant professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), said the research will be valuable for husbandry.

“We have been running trials where we're looking at pigs in different housing systems, and under different treatments that we are exploring, if there are different stress measures — how their behaviour response is, or other indicators of animal welfare; showing up and measuring the hair over specific periods of time to see if there are relationships between the hormones in the hair, and what we see as indicators of animal welfare and performance,” Seddon told CTV News.

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) website says that stress produces two key chemicals, cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) hormones. These collect in the hair, which is what researchers can use as they study stress in swine.

“Lots of times when we look at welfare or assessable fare, we kind of look at what we think is positive or negative. So this environment we think is better or worse. But we don't really have like a good objective measure to evaluate. If we can get something like an objective indicator of their welfare, I think it'd be really valuable,” Ph.D. student Darian Pollock said.

Seddon said they were now analyzing the data that has been collected and they hope to have the results later this year or early in 2024.

“We've done a lot of longitudinal trials where we've tracked animals all the way from birth to slaughter and in different conditions,” Seddon said.

“They're very intelligent animals. I think there's much to be discovered about them and how we can care for them to ensure we have good farming practices and respect their needs as an animal.”

The study is part of a collaboration with WCVM and Iowa State University, the U of S website said.

Funding for the study was provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and the WCVM’s interprovincial undergraduate summer research program. Top Stories

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