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ARS Home » Plains Area » Clay Center, Nebraska » U.S. Meat Animal Research Center » Genetics and Animal Breeding » Research » Research Project #436860

Research Project: Prevention of Lameness in Sows: Early Detection and Mitigation

Location: Genetics and Animal Breeding

Project Number: 3040-31000-099-003-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Jun 1, 2019
End Date: Dec 31, 2021

Objective 1: Identify gilts with poor structure or joint health prior to their selection as replacement breeding animals. Objective 1A: Can gait analysis using a pressure-sensing mat in conjunction with video image analysis identify extremely early signs of lameness in market age gilts? Objective 1B: Does circulating blood contain biomarkers that can accurately predict osteochondrosis lesions or other ailments that will lead to lameness in adulthood? Objective 1C: Can image analysis of finishing pens be used to determine an animal’s mobility and their resulting structural soundness? Objective 2: Identify sows that are mildly lame in late gestation using objective measures. Objective 2A: Can gait analysis using a pressure-sensing mat in conjunction with video image analysis identify extremely early signs of lameness in sows at late gestation and/or at weaning? Objective 2B: Can close inspection of hooves identify sources of lameness that require treatment? Objective 3: Develop a recommended treatment protocol to improve hoof health and prevent progression of lameness in sows exhibiting mild signs of lameness in late gestation. Objective 3A: Can close inspection of hooves and claw/hoof trimming when necessary reduce the incidence of lameness in sows? Objective 3B: Does providing pain relief in late gestation sows detected with mild lameness improve their well-being, productivity and gait analysis score at weaning? Objective 3C: Can anti-microbial foot bathes promote healing hoof lesions or improve hoof health?

Detailed objective measures of lameness, structure and mobility will be collected on USMARC animals. Beginning at 19 weeks of age, video recorded data of approximately 40 gilts/week will be collected for 7 consecutive days. Utilizing the proprietary data capture and analysis system developed at UNL, data collected on individual pigs will include the following: 1) time / day associated with walking, standing, at feeder, at water, and lying down, 2) distance walked / day and 3) coordinates of head and tail of each pig within pen associated with activity. Gilts will walk across a pressure sensing mat (GAITFour system) to evaluate gait metrics and will be recorded with depth video imaging. Every 2 weeks, 20 selected visually sound gilts, and 2 lame gilts (n = 150) will have a blood sample drawn for later analysis. Sows will walk across the GAITFour mat and recorded with an overhead depth imaging and side visual video system when entering and leaving the farrowing barn for the duration of the study. After sows are penned in their farrowing stall, each hoof will be visually inspected for lesions. After weaning, each sow will be confined in a ZinPro Feet First chute for a thorough visual inspection for cracks and sores. Infra-red images of the foot pads will be recorded. Sow productivity (number born, number born alive, preweaning mortality, etc.) will be correlated with gait, video measures and hoof lesion scores collected to determine the associated effects of lameness on performance. 200 sows with mild lameness when entering the farrowing barn, as detected by electronic monitoring, as well as age-matched normal sows in the same contemporary group will have blood samples drawn for non-targeted metabolomic and RNA-Seq analyses. When sows enter farrowing, half of them will walk through a foot bath containing an anti-microbial compound while the other half will not. In addition, sows that were detected with mild signs of lameness when entering the farrowing barn will be randomly assigned to either receive a dose of pain relief or receive a placebo.