Submitted to: Journal of Animal Science
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/21/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: The use of gestation stalls in pork production remains a controversial topic in animal welfare. Immune and cortisol measures were determined for Landrace x Yorkshire gilts in (n=8) groups of four compared to (n=14) gilts housed in standard industry stalls (2.21m x .61m) to evaluate the stress effect of two housing systems. 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 (3.9m x 2.4m). Floors were fully slatted and substrate was not provided for either system. Acute phase proteins, including haptoglobin, a1-acid glycoprotein (AGP), and fibrinogen, were determined with granulocyte, peripheral blood mononuclear cell counts, and hematocrit percentages. Cortisol was also determined from saliva 1h after moving into farrowing crates (d 111), and 24h and d7 post-farrowing. Peripheral blood samples were obtained via jugular puncture on d 35, 63, and 91 of gestation and d 3 and 14 post-farrowing. Cortisol was significantly higher for animals housed in groups 1h after moving into farrowing crates and 24h post-farrowing (P= .038). Cortisol concentrations decreased significantly over time for grouped and stalled gilts (P= .0001). A time effect also existed for the variables fibrinogen, hematocrit and granulocytes (P< .0005). Stalled gilts showed a trend for higher plasma AGP concentrations (micro gram/ml) over grouped animals at d35 of gestation and d14 post-farrowing (P= .07). Treatment differences were not found at any time point for these immune measure. These data provide no evidence that the group housing system we designed was a better or worse alternative to gestation stalls when observing immune function as an indicator of welfare.