New Research to Combat Painful Joint Disease in Pigs

UK - Researcher Dale Sandercock from Scotland's Rural College (SRUC) is contributing to a Newcastle University led project looking for markers identifying pigs at risk from a painful and degenerative joint disease.
calendar icon 14 April 2015
clock icon 3 minute read

Animals with degenerative joint conditions are likely to experience pain before they show any clinical signs or lameness.

In UK Pig Herds lameness is a serious welfare and economic problem which has been found to affect some 230,000 animals annually.

Being able to predict clinical lameness will not only help inform earlier pain alleviation but will also help in the selection for breeding of non-affected animals which could gradually reduce the genetic pre-disposition to lameness.

The project is funded by the Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) and draws together a multi-disciplinary team of animal scientists and specialists in human osteoarthritis from Newcastle University, Nottingham University and Oxford University in addition to Scotland’s Rural College.

Researchers aim to identify molecular markers in the blood and joint tissue of pigs affected by degenerative joint disease which could in future be used to identify animals likely to develop the condition before any clinical signs appear. They will study the relationship between the disease, specific biomarkers and use sophisticated motion capture software to record and identify any subtle behaviour patterns that might be used to identify early signs.

Once validated, pain and lameness biomarker data have the potential to be included within breeding selection objectives, both in genetic population improvement programmes and the on-going screening of animals sold to production herds. It would bring significant benefits to pig welfare.

The Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW) is an internationally recognised, independent scientific and educational animal welfare charity.

UFAW’s Senior Scientific Programme Manager, Dr Huw Golledge said: “UFAW is delighted to be able to support this important project which has the potential to significantly improve the welfare and health of farmed pigs.”

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