Floor Type Affects Gait Development in Pigs

UK - Changes in the gait patterns of growing pigs is not affected by the floor surface they are reared on.
calendar icon 23 July 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Researchers at Newcastle University have used a 3D motion capture technique to subjectively measure the movement of pigs.

Circular, reflective markers were stuck onto different points of the body and detected by infrared cameras when the pigs were filmed while walking.

Movements on the walkway were captured with motion capture software and analysed. This technology provides an accurate alternative to traditional gait assessment methods that rely on the human eye.

Analysis of gait (movement) patterns in pigs can help to spot leg weakness and lameness. Lameness is a significant challenge of the pig industry, costing approximately £5 million per year due to veterinary fees, treatment and cost of replacing lame breeding pigs.

Also, the welfare of lame pigs is a concern of pig producers. Common causes of lameness include genetic muscle or skeleton weaknesses, infections, injuries and poor nutrition.

Previous research has suggested that the type of floor that pigs are housed on can affect the chances of them becoming lame, with slatted floors causing more leg weakness than straw-bedded floors.

In this study, 12 male and 12 female healthy growing pigs were randomly selected for gait analysis by 3D motion capture.

The walking movements of each pig were captured five times over a six week period. The pigs were split into three groups for housing on three different floor types: fully slatted, partially slatted/partially concrete and straw-bedded. During this time all of the pigs grew in weight from 37 kg to 90 kg.

Results showed that the gait of the pigs changed over time, as expected. Many of the changes were very subtle and therefore undetectable to the human eye.

This shows that the 3D motion capture technique may be useful for detection of subtle leg weaknesses and lameness in pigs. Changes in gait pattern of the pigs over the six week period was not affected by the floor surface. None of the floor types caused any damaging effects on gait development.

Michael Priestley

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