Assessment of lameness in sows using gait, footprints, postural behaviour and foot lesions analysis.

Grégoire, J., Bergeron, R., D'Allaire, S., Meunier-Salaün, M.-C., and Devillers, N. (2013). "Assessment of lameness in sows using gait, footprints, postural behaviour and foot lesions analysis.", Animal, 7(7), pp. 1163-1173. doi : 10.1017/S1751731113000098  Access to full text


Lameness in sows has an economic impact on pig production and is a major welfare concern. The aim of the present project was to develop methods to evaluate and quantify lameness in breeding sows. Five methods to study lameness were compared between themselves and with visual gait scoring used as a reference: footprint analysis, kinematics, accelerometers, lying-to-standing transition and foot lesion observation. Fifty sows of various parities and stages of gestation were selected using visual gait scoring and distributed into three groups: lame (L), mildly lame (ML) and non-lame (NL). They were then tested using each method. Kinematics showed that L sows had a lower walking speed than NL sows (L: 0.83 ± 0.04, NL: 0.96 ± 0.03 m/s; P < 0.05), a shorter stride length than ML sows (L: 93.0 ± 2.6, ML: 101.2 ± 1.5 cm; P < 0.05) and a longer stance time than ML and NL sows (L: 0.83 ± 0.03, ML: 0.70 ± 0.03, NL: 0.69 ± 0.02 s; P < 0.01). Accelerometer measurements revealed that L sows spent less time standing over a 24-h period (L: 6.3 ± 1.3, ML: 13.7 ± 2.4, NL: 14.5 ± 2.4%; P < 0.01), lay down earlier after feeding (L: 33.4 ± 4.6, ML: 41.7 ± 3.1, NL: 48.6 ± 2.9 min; P < 0.05) and tended to step more often during the hour following feeding (L: 10.1 ± 2.0, ML: 6.1 ± 0.5, NL: 5.4 ± 0.4 step/min standing; P = 0.06) than NL sows, with the ML sows having intermediate values. Visual observation of back posture showed that 64% of L sows had an arched back, compared with only 14% in NL sows (P = 0.02). Finally, footprint analysis and observation of lying-to-standing transition and foot lesions were not successful in detecting significant differences between L, ML and NL sows. In conclusion, several quantitative variables obtained from kinematics and accelerometers proved to be successful in identifying reliable indicators of lameness in sows. Further work is needed to relate these indicators with causes of lameness and to develop methods that can be implemented on the farm

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