Biological Markers Offer Potential to Help Swine Producers Improve Animal Welfare

Farmscape for February 4, 2022

Full Interview 15:13 Listen

Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are working to apply the measurement of various biological indicators of animal well being to the selection and care of swine. Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are evaluating the relationship of biological markers to animal welfare to identify indicators of animal welfare and develop improved measures of animal welfare.
Dr. Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor of Swine Behaviour and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare, explains these biological indicators have the potential to help identify animal welfare concerns that need to be addressed.

Clip-Dr. Yolande Seddon-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
Biomarkers is short for biological markers. They are essentially observable characteristics that can be objectively measured and therefore we’re looking to quantifiable characteristics of biological processes that can be used to represent whether an individual is in a state of good health and well being. Biological markers can be physiological processes. It can also be a behavior. We have focussed our attention to look at chronic measures that could tell us about animal welfare over a longer period of time and we are looking at the measurements of cortisol as a hormone involved in the stress response and an additional hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA for short and the ratio when measured in hair. The value of measuring it in hair is that, as the blood is circulating around the body, these hormones are deposited into the hair shaft as it grows providing us with a sort of longer-term measurement of how these hormone levels have been circulating.

Dr. Seddon says measurements that tell us about the physiological state of animals offer the potential to assist in the development of new tools to assess how various animal care practices are influencing the animals and their productivity and assist in the genetic selection of breeding stock.

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