Poor leg health has been identified as an important animal welfare problem in organic pig production in Sweden. The high proportion of pigs with leg problems in organic production is partly due to joint infection caused by the bacteria Erysipelothrix rhusiopathiae, a bacteria that is present in the soil where the pigs are rooting. However, a recent study showed that a majority of pigs with joints discarded at slaughter were affected by osteochondrosis. Osteochondrosis and leg weakness are partly heritable, implying that the choice of genetic material, e.g. breed, influence leg health.
Animal welfare in organic pig production - does leg health improve by change of sire breed?
Project responsible: Anna Wallenbeck, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics, SLU.
Project member: Maria Alarik, Swedish Rural Economy and Agricultural Societies.
Collaboration: Eva Heldmer, Swedish Animal Health Service.
The overall aim with this project is to assess possibilities to improve pig leg health in organic production by change in sire breed.
In most cases, the pigs raised in organic herds are of the same breeds as used in conventional herds. These breeds are selected for high production in conventional production environments. The production environment partly differs between organic and conventional production and the stress on the joints are often higher for pigs in organic production environments, leading to more severe forms of osteochondrosis.
At present, the most commonly used sire breeds are Hampshire in Sweden and Duroc in Norway, but both breeds are available for producers in both countries. There are scientific and practical experiences indicating that progenies of Duroc boars have better leg health in outdoor production than progenies of Hampshire boars, and Duroc would thus be more suitable for organic production. In order to investigate this we will study:
- leg conformation and
- locomotion during the growing-finishing period,
- remarks related to leg health at slaughter and
in 500 Hampsire- and 500 Duroc-offspring raised in organic herds.
Wallenbeck, A., Eliasson, C. och Alarik, M. 2013. Effect of sire on pig leg health in commercial organic herds. PPT-presentation at the 15th International Conference on Production Diseases in farm animals. 24-28 June 2013, Uppsala, Sweden.
Wallenbeck A, Eliasson C, Lundeheim N and Nilsson K. 2019. Leg health, growth and carcass characteristics in growing-finishing pigs of two different genotypes reared on Swedish organic farms. Organic Agriculture. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13165-019-00260-8
Wallenbeck, A., Eliasson, C. och Alarik, M. 2013. Association between pig leg health and lean meat growth in commercial organic herds. NJF seminar 461: ”Organic farming systems as a driver for change”. NJF Report 9, No 3, 167-168. Archived at http://orgprints.org/23218/7/23218.pdf
Wallenbeck, A., Eliasson, C. och Alarik, M. 2013. Effect of sire on pig leg health in commercial organic herds. Book of Abstracts p 35. The 15th International Conference on Production Diseases in farm animals. 24-28 June 2013, Uppsala, Sweden.