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Impact of farm, transport, and stunning procedure on stress-related parameters in pigs


The influence of origin farms and of the stunning procedure on the stress of pigs before and during slaughtering will be researched. In a commercial abattoir, three groups of slaughter pigs each with a problematic origin (rather stressed animals) and with unproblematic origin are examined. Via direct electronic quality control during stunning, it is furthermore possible to differentiate between optimal and suboptimal stunning procedures. From each animal group, five animals with the best assessment of the stunning and five with the worst are chosen. Blood samples of those animals are then examined for their cortisol, lactate and adrenaline levels. The data are interpreted in terms of the assessment of the animals' perception of stress. The project takes place in preparation and evaluation of the results in collaboration with a commercial abattoir, and aims to create a starting point for the discussion of the stress problem for slaughtering pigs, and for specific, exemplary improvements.

Detailed Description

Experimental design

In the early morning hours, the pigs are delivered to the abattoir by different distributors and lairaged in groups of ca. 20 animals (belonging to each other). The abattoir staff assumes to be able to differentiate calm from stressed groups already on the basis of their origin farms.

Following the judgment of the abattoir personnel, particularly unproblematic and particularly problematic groups are defined. On examining day, two to three groups (same number of animals!) of each category are examined. The animals are driven in groups into the stunning room. Five animals with the best and five animals with the worst stunning results are then chosen from each group for blood test sampling. The samples are immediately frozen and later tested for cortisol, lactate and adrenaline concentrations. In addition, the pH level of the carcasses are recorded on the spot and again after 24 hours, in order to gain indications for stress-related change in the meat.

The experimental design is supposed to enable the evaluation of "good" and "bad" origins of the animals according to the abattoir staff's assessment, as well as the significance of an optimal stunning for the animals' stress life. The blood parameters cortisol, lactate and adrenaline, which react very quickly and distinctly to stress and anxiety, are here being perceived as a clear indication for the animals' experience.

By taking into account the assessment of the animals (and their origin) by the staff and their stunning procedure, we are trying to actively involve the people working in the abattoir in the project. This is continued by driving again to the abattoir after the evaluation and presenting the results to the staff for discussion. This is how concrete ideas may evolve on how to further improve the animals' situation.

Financing/ Donor
  • Stiftung Dreiklang
FiBL project leader/ contact
  • Leiber Florian (Department of Livestock Sciences)
  • Probst Johanna (Department of Livestock Sciences)
(people who are not linked are former FiBL employees)
FiBL project staff
Role of FiBL

Koordination, Durchführung Datenerhebung, Datenauswertung, Publikationen

Research area
  • Animal husbandry & Livestock breeding ( )
Date modified 12.11.2019
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