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Evaluation of the acute phase protein haptoglobin as an indicator of herd health in slaughter pigs

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Health is an important aspect of animal welfare, which is difficult to assess at herd level. Clinical examination of individual animals is time-consuming, and most measures of clinical herd health depend significantly on the examiner. Acute phase proteins are produced during inflammatory processes, and could therefore be used as general markers of infection and injury. Our objective was to evaluate whether haptoglobin could be used to monitor the health status of herds at slaughter.

107 groups of 20 slaughter pigs each were examined at two large abattoirs. Clinical signs of tail biting, lameness, injuries, abscesses, pneumonia, pleurisy, hepatitis and gastritis were recorded. The association between elevated haptoglobin concentration in meat juice samples and clinical signs was assessed via multiple logistic regression.

Pigs from groups in which tail biting, lameness, othaematomas, abscesses, pneumonia, pleurisy, pericarditis or condemnations of livers, lungs or carcasses occurred, showed higher levels of haptoglobin than pigs from slaughter groups without any of these clinical signs. In the multiple regression model, only the variables of lameness and tail biting were statistically significant. The haptoglobin test classified 66% of all slaughter groups correctly according to the presence of these clinical signs. These results demonstrate the potential for haptoglobin to be used as a screening test to identify problem herds at slaughter.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2007-05-01

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