Tag Archives: Ireland

Prophylactic use of antibiotics affects piglet welfare

Do weaner pigs need in-feed antibiotics to ensure good health and welfare?
By Alessia Diana, Edgar G. Manzanilla, Julia A. Calderon Diaz, Finola C. Leonard,
Laura A. Boyle. 2017. PlosOne.


Antibiotics (AB) are used in intensive pig production systems to control infectious diseases
and they are suspected to be a major source of antibiotic resistance. Following the ban on
AB use as growth promoters in the EU, their prophylactic use in-feed is now under review.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of removing prophylactic in-feed AB on pig
health and welfare indicators. Every Monday for six weeks, a subset of 70 pigs were
weaned, tagged and sorted into two groups of 35 pigs according to weight (9.2 ± 0.6 kg). AB
were removed from the diet of one group (NO, n = 6) and maintained in the other group (AB,
n = 6) for nine weeks. Ten focal pigs were chosen per group. After c. five weeks each group
was split into two pens of c.17 pigs for the following 4 weeks. Data were recorded weekly.
Skin, tail, ear, flank and limb lesions of focal pigs were scored according to severity. The
number of animals per group affected by health deviations was also recorded. The number
of fights and harmful behaviours (ear, tail bites) per group was counted during 3×5min
observations once per week. Data were analysed using mixed model equations and binomial
logistic regression. At group level, AB pigs were more likely to have tail (OR = 1.70; P =
0.05) but less likely to have ear lesions than NO pigs (OR = 0.46; P<0.05). The number of
ear bites (21.4±2.15 vs. 17.3±1.61; P<0.05) and fights (6.91±0.91 vs. 5.58±0.72; P = 0.09)
was higher in AB than in NO pigs. There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and
the frequency of these was low. Removing AB from the feed of weaner pigs had minimal
effects on health and welfare indicators.

Study on the Association between Tail Lesion Score, Cold Carcass Weight, and Viscera Condemnations in Slaughter Pigs

Study on the Association between Tail Lesion Score, Cold Carcass Weight, and Viscera Condemnations in Slaughter Pigs
By Dayane L.Teixeira, Sarah Harley, Alison Hanlon, Niamh Elizabeth O’Connell, Simon J. More, Edgar G. Manzanilla and Laura A. Boyle, 2016. Frontiers in Veterinary Science.


The aim of this study was to assess the relationship between tail lesions, cold carcass weight, and viscera condemnations in an Irish abattoir. The following data were collected at the evisceration point from every third pig slaughtered over 7 days: farm identification, sex, tail lesion score, viscera inspection outcome, and cold carcass weight. Tail lesions were scored according to a 5-point scale. Disease lesions responsible for lung (pleurisy, pneumonia, and abscess), heart (pericarditis), and liver (ascariasis) condemnation were recorded based on the decision of the veterinary inspector (VI). Data on 3,143 pigs from 61 batches were available. The relationship between disease lesions, tail lesion score, and cold carcass weight was studied at individual carcass level, while the relationship between disease lesions and tail lesion score was studied at both carcass and batch level. Tail lesions (score ≥1) were found in 72% of the study population, with 2.3% affected by severe tail lesions (scores ≥3). Pleurisy (13.7%) followed by pneumonia (10.4%) showed the highest prevalence, whereas the prevalence of ascariasis showed the greatest variation between batches (0-75%). Tail lesion score, pleurisy, pleuropneumonia, and pericarditis were associated with reductions in carcass cold weight (P ≤ 0.05) ranging from 3 to 6.6 kg. Tail lesion score was associated with condemnations for pleurisy, pneumonia, and pleuropneumonia (P ≤ 0.05) at a batch level. VI shift was associated with condemnations for pneumonia, pleuropneumonia, and pericarditis (P ≤ 0.05) at a carcass level and with pneumonia at a batch level. Sex was not associated with viscera condemnations but males were more likely to be affected by tail lesions. The relationship between overall tail lesion score and the lung diseases at batch level supports the relationship between poor health and poor welfare of pigs on farms. The inclusion of tail lesion scores at post-mortem meat inspection should be considered as a health and welfare diagnostic tool.

Associations between tail lesions and other welfare conditions and behaviours in pigs

Associations between tail lesions and other welfare conditions and behaviours in pigs
Paper presented at the ISAE regional meeting, At Teagasc Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland, by Nienke van Staaveren, Elise Moussard, Alison Hanlon and Laura Boyle.


Tail lesions are outcomes of tail biting behaviour and reflective of impaired welfare in pigs. This work is part of a study which aims to validate tail lesions as possible iceberg indicators to be included in the meat inspection process at slaughter (PIGWELFIND).
Twenty farrow-to-finish Irish pig farms were visited. On each farm, 18 randomly selected pens of first (n=6) and second (n=6) weaner stage and finisher (n=6) pigs were inspected. Pigs were observed for 10 min and the number of pigs with tail, ear, flank and skin lesions and the number showing signs of other health deviations (e.g. lameness, sickness) were recorded. All occurrence behaviour sampling was used to record frequency of coughing and sneezing (5 min) and tail-, ear-, and flank biting, fighting and mounting behaviour (5 min). Welfare conditions were expressed as percentage of pigs in a pen and behaviours were expressed per pig to correct for different numbers of pigs per pen (32.1±16.0 pigs/pen). Mixed model equation methods were used to analyse the effect of welfare conditions and behaviours on percentage of pigs with tail lesions. Farms and stage were included as fixed effects and welfare and behaviour indicators were included as covariates. Pen within stage by farm was included as random effect. Results for covariates are presented as regression coefficients.
On average, 7.4% of pigs in a pen had tail lesions. Preliminary results show that the percentage of pigs with tail lesions was greater for pens with a higher percentage of pigs with skin lesions but lower for pens with a higher percentage of sick pigs (P<0.05). Furthermore, the percentage of pigs with tail lesions was positively associated with tail biting (P<0.001).
Results suggest that tail lesions may have potential as iceberg indicators for pig welfare. However, more research is needed to further elucidate the nature of these associations.


My name is Grace Carroll and I am a PhD student studying at Queens University Belfast.

Grace Carroll
Grace Carroll

The project I am working on, PIGWELFIND, is a collaborative all-Ireland project with researchers in Teagasc, University College Dublin and Queens University Belfast. The aim of PIGWELFIND is to explore the potential of measures taken at meat inspection for use as an animal welfare diagnostic tool.
The positive association between animal welfare and productivity levels is being increasingly realised. Tail lesions for example have been found to be associated with reduced growth (Marques et al., 2012) and the spread of infection which can lead to secondary abscessation and carcass condemnation (Huey, 1996). Harley et al. (2012) found direct producer losses of €0.37 per pig slaughtered as a result of carcass condemnation. When indirect losses (e.g. reduced growth potential, medicines, processing of condemned meat) are considered, the financial implications are even greater (Harley et al., 2012). Welfare-related meat inspection information could be fed back to producers, informing herd health plans and providing an opportunity to improve animal welfare while simultaneously increasing productivity levels.
The main aim of my research is to determine whether the lifetime welfare of pigs is reflected in measures taken from the carcass. To do this, I assessed the welfare of several batches of pigs from 7 weeks of age to the week prior to slaughter. I then compared the carcasses of pigs with welfare issues in early life, later life and whole life, to the carcasses of those that showed no evidence of poor welfare on farm.

Carcass tail
Carcass tail

Initial results indicate that evidence of tail lesions and skin lesions acquired in both early and later life remain evident on the carcass in the form of visible tail lesions, short tails (in relation to original docked length) and healed (non-red) skin lesions. Fresh skin lesions were not associated with skin lesions acquired on farm, suggesting that these may reflect damage that occurred during loading, transportation or lairage.

As the concept of conducting welfare assessments on the carcass is relatively new, we also wanted to determine the effect that routine slaughter processes, such as scalding and dehairing, would have on the visibility of welfare-related carcass damage. Carcasses were scored for tail lesions, skin lesions and loin bruising immediately after exsanguination and again subsequent to scalding and dehairing. The findings from this study indicate that the visibility of tail lesions, loin bruising and severe skin lesions was significantly improved by these processes, suggesting that abattoir-based welfare assessments should be carried out after scalding and dehairing of the carcass.

Carcss loin
Carcass loin

Together, these findings strengthen the argument for the integration of welfare-specific measures into routine meat inspection processes.
For more information, see our poster at the International Pig Welfare Conference in Denmark. For any questions about our research you can contact me at gcarroll05 @ qub . ac . uk. This research is funded by the Research Stimulus Fund of the Irish Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.

Harley, S., More, S. J., O’Connell, N. E., Hanlon, A., Teixeira, D. & Boyle, L. 2012. Evaluating the prevalence of tail biting and carcase condemnations in slaughter pigs in the Republic and Northern Ireland, and the potential of abattoir meat inspection as a welfare surveillance tool. Veterinary Record, 171, 621-+.
Huey, R. 1996. Incidence, location and interrelationships between the sites of abscesses recorded in pigs at a bacon factory in Northern Ireland. Veterinary Record, 138, 511-514.
Marques, B. M. F. P. P., Bernardi, M. L., Coelho, C. F., Almeida, M., Morales, O. E., Mores, T. J., Borowski, S. M. & Barcellos, D. E. S. N. 2012. Influence of tail biting on weight gain, lesions and condemnations at slaughter of finishing pigs. Pesquisa Veterinaria Brasileira, 32, 967-974.