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Effects of free-range and confined housing on joint health in a herd of fattening pigs


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Etterlin, Pernille Engelsen; Ytrehus, Bjørnar; Lundeheim, Nils; Heldmer, Eva; Österberg, Julia and Ekman, Stina (2014) Effects of free-range and confined housing on joint health in a herd of fattening pigs. BMC Veterinary Research, 10, p. 208.

PDF - Published Version - English

Online at: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1746-6148/10/208


Free-range housing, in which pigs have access to both indoor and outdoor areas, is mandatory in organic pig production in Europe, but little is known about the effects of this housing on joint health in pigs. A high level of joint condemnations at slaughter has been reported in organic free-range pigs in Sweden, compared with pigs raised in conventional confined housing. We hypothesised that biomechanical forces imposed on the joints of pigs that range freely promote the development of osteochondrosis and lead to joint condemnation. We compared the prevalence of osteochondrosis and other joint lesions (e.g. arthritis, traumatic) in the elbow and hock joints of 91 crossbred Hampshire (Yorkshire×Landrace) fattening pigs that were housed in a free-range indoor/outdoor system with that in 45 pigs housed in confined indoor pens.
A larger proportion of free-range than confined pigs had osteochondrosis in the elbow joints (69 vs. 50%, p<0.05), and a higher proportion of these joints in free-range pigs showed moderate or severe lesions (33 vs. 16%, p<0.05). The free-range pigs also showed a higher prevalence of osteochondrosis in the hock joints (83 vs. 62%, p<0.05) and a larger proportion of these joints had moderate or severe lesions (69 vs. 33%, p<0.001). At slaughter, 4.2% of the free-range pigs had condemned joints, all of which showed severe osteochondrosis, while no joints of confined pigs were condemned.
In this experiment the prevalence of osteochondrosis in the elbow and the hock was higher, and lesions were more severe, in free-range than in confined pigs, suggesting that free-range housing increases the risk of acquiring osteochondrosis. Increased biomechanical stress to vulnerable joint structures may be the mechanism behind this effect, however more studies are needed to verify these results. This study suggests that modification of housing, and breeding for joints that are more adapted to free-range movement may be needed in free-range pig production. Severe osteochondrosis is a cause of joint condemnation, but the condemnation rate at slaughter underestimates the actual frequency of joint lesions and hence is a poor assessment of joint health.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:Osteochondrosis, OCD, Housing, Organic, Conventional, Fattening pigs, Joint Condemnation, Welfare
Agrovoc keywords:
EnglishAnimal husbandryhttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_8532
Englishorganic husbandryhttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_36807
EnglishJoint diseaseshttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_4051
Englishconventional farminghttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_331393
Englishanimal welfarehttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_443
EnglishAnimal housinghttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_432
EnglishFree range husbandryhttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_3087
Englishagricultural statisticshttp://aims.fao.org/aos/agrovoc/c_49977
Subjects: Farming Systems
Animal husbandry
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Animal husbandry > Production systems > Pigs
Research affiliation: Norway
Sweden > National Veterinary Institute SVA
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) > Animal Breeding and Genetics
Sweden > Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) > Department of Biomedical Sciences and Veterinary Public Health
Norway > Other organizations
Deposited By: Engelsen Etterlin, Pernille
ID Code:29322
Deposited On:09 Oct 2015 09:39
Last Modified:09 Oct 2015 09:39
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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