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The accumulation of skin lesions and their use as a predictor of individual aggressiveness in pigs

By S. P. Turner, M. J. Farnworth, I. M. S. White, S. Brotherstone, M. Mendl, P. Knap, P. Penny, A. B. Lawrence

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Abstract

Post-mixing aggression in commercially housed pigs can be intense and often results in the accumulation of skin lesions. The number of lesions (lesion score, LS) has often been used as a proxy indicator of post-mixing aggression. There has been no previous attempt to quantify the role of different behaviours in the accumulation of lesions. The objective of this work was to investigate the factors that contribute to LS in order to assess the validity of LS as a measure of individual aggressiveness. After mixing into new groups of 12, the durations of reciprocal fighting and bullying, the proportions of fights initiated, won and lost and physical attributes of the pigs were investigated for their impact on LS using multiple regression on a sample of 342 growing pigs. Pig liveweight was the single greatest determinant of LS. The duration spent in reciprocal fighting and being bullied were also significant determinants of the LS and contributed to the total LS in proportions of 0.17 and 0.14, respectively. The proportion of fights initiated, won and lost did not influence the LS for pigs of a given weight. On an individual pig basis, it was impossible to establish the relative importance of reciprocal fighting and the receipt of bullying to the accumulation of lesions by reference to the total LS alone. Engagement in reciprocal fighting was found to result in lesions to the anterior third of the body, whilst the receipt of bullying resulted in lesions accruing on the caudal third of the body. Reference to the location of lesions, in addition to their number, is a refinement of the methodology that potentially allows discrimination of pigs that accumulate lesions as a result of reciprocal fighting or receipt of bulling. A partial replication of the experiment at a second unit (n=84 pigs) with different genotypic, environmental and husbandry conditions confirmed that the duration spent in reciprocal fighting and being bullied were significant determinants of the LS and that the LS approach is applicable across units. Liveweight was not recorded at Unit 2. These results suggest that the LS methodology provides a rapid means of estimating aggressive behavioural phenotypes when reference is made to both the number and location of lesions and pig weight and pen identity effects are accounted for.

Date 2006
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 96
Issue 3/4
Pages 245-259
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Language English
Author Address Scottish Agricultural College, Sir Stephen Watson Building, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian EH26 0PH, UK. simon.turner@sac.ac.uk
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Tags
  1. Aggression
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Body weight
  4. Bullying
  5. Fighting
  6. Lesions
  7. Mammals
  8. peer-reviewed
  9. skin
  10. Swine
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  1. peer-reviewed