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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Periparturient cortisol, acute phase cytokine, and acute phase protein profiles of gilts housed in groups or stalls during gestation

Authors
item Sorrells, A - UCSF
item Eicher, Susan
item Harris, M - UNIV OF BRISTOL
item Pajor, E - PURDUE UNIV
item Richert, B - PURDUE UNIV

Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 29, 2007
Publication Date: June 28, 2007
Citation: Sorrells, A.D., Eicher, S.D., Harris, M.J., Pajor, E.A., Richert, B.T. Periparturient cortisol, acute phase cytokine, and acute phase protein profiles of gilts housed in groups or stalls during gestation. Journal of Animal Science. 85:1750-1757.

Interpretive Summary: The use of gestation stalls in pork production remains a controversial topic in animal welfare. Immune status and measures are more frequently being used to assess the stress level and thus well-being of confined animals. We addressed the important welfare issue of close confinement among gestating sows by quantifying the acute phase cytokine and acute phase protein profile of gilts housed in two different systems. To evaluate the stress effects of two housing systems, immune and cortisol measures were determined for Landrace x Yorkshire gilts housed in groups of four, compared to gilts housed in standard industry stalls. In an attempt to provide swine producers a practical alternative to controversial gestation stalls, the back gates of four stalls were removed to allow a group of four gilts to interact behind the feeder stalls. Time effects were detected for acute phase proteins (proteins which act to restore homeostasis following inflammation, infection, or injury), including haptoglobin, alpha1 acid glycoprotein (AGP), and fibrinogen. Cortisol was greater for G gilts 1 hour after moving into farrowing crates and 24 hours post-farrowing. Cortisol concentrations decreased over time for gilts on both treatments. Stalled gilts tended to expressed greater plasma AGP concentrations over G animals at day 35 of gestation and day 14 post-farrowing. Cytokine RNA expression of IL-1, its receptor antagonist, nor the TNF were not altered by housing system. These data only showed a trend for AGP concentrations to return to baseline more quickly in group housed gilt, which appeared not to be related to increased cortisol just prior to farrowing. Group housed gilts were more sensitive to the movement to farrowing housing, but stalled gilts had greater AGP suggesting a more activated immune response. These data will be useful to direct further studies either using the same systems, or studies testing larger group housing systems.

Technical Abstract: The use of gestation stalls in pork production remains a controversial topic in animal welfare. Immune status and measures are more frequently being used to assess the stress level and thus well-being of confined animals. We addressed the important welfare issue of close confinement among gestating sows by quantifying the acute phase cytokine and acute phase protein profile of gilts housed in two different systems. To evaluate the stress effects of two housing systems, immune and cortisol measures were determined for Landrace x Yorkshire gilts housed in groups of four (G; n = 8) compared to gilts (n=14) housed in standard industry stalls (S; 2.21 m x .61 m). In an attempt to provide swine producers a practical alternative to controversial gestation stalls, the back gates of 4 stalls were removed to allow a group of 4 gilts to interact behind the feeder stalls (3.9 m x 2.4 m). Floors were fully slatted and substrate was not provided for either system. Acute phase proteins, including haptoglobin, alpha 1 acid glycoprotein (AGP), and fibrinogen, were determined. Cortisol was also determined from saliva 1 h after moving into farrowing crates (d 111), and 24 h and 7 d post-farrowing. Cortisol was significantly higher for G gilts 1 h after moving into farrowing crates and 24h post-farrowing (P = 0 .04). Cortisol concentrations decreased significantly over time for G and S gilts (P = .0001). Fibrinogen increased over time (P < 0.001). Stalled gilts expressed a trend in greater plasma AGP concentrations (mg/mL) over G animals at d 35 of gestation and d 14 post-farrowing (P = 0 .07). Cytokine RNA expression of peripheral blood leukocytes did not differ between housing systems for IL-1, its receptor antagonist, nor for TNF. These data only showed a trend (P < 0.10) for AGP concentrations to return to baseline more quickly in group housed gilt, which appeared not to be related to increased cortisol just prior to farrowing. Group housed gilts were more sensitive to the movement to farrowing housing, but stalled gilts had greater AGP suggesting a more activated immune response.

Last Modified: 12/18/2014
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