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Open Access Research article

Pressure mat analysis of naturally occurring lameness in young pigs after weaning

Ellen Meijer1*, Maarten Oosterlinck2, Arie van Nes1, Willem Back23 and Franz Josef van der Staay1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Farm Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 7, Utrecht, NL-3584, CL, The Netherlands

2 Department of Surgery and Anaesthesiology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Merelbeke, B-9820, Belgium

3 Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, Yalelaan 112-114, Utrecht, NL-3584, CM, The Netherlands

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BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:193  doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0193-8

Published: 20 August 2014

Abstract

Background

Lameness is a common problem in modern swine husbandry. It causes welfare problems in affected pigs as well as financial problems for farmers. To minimize these negative consequences of lameness, new treatment and prevention strategies need to be developed and validated using objective and quantitative measurement techniques. An example of such a putative diagnostic tool is the use of a pressure mat. Pressure mats are able to provide both objective loading (kinetic) as well as objective movement (kinematic) information on pig locomotion.

In this study, pressure mat analysis was used to assess compensatory force redistribution in lame pigs; in particular a predefined set of four pressure mat parameters was evaluated for its use to objectively distinguish clinically lame from sound pigs. Kinetic data from 10 clinically lame and 10 healthy weaned piglets were collected. These data were analyzed to answer three research questions. Firstly the pattern of compensatory weight distribution in lame animals was studied using the asymmetry indices (ASI) for several combinations of limbs. Secondly, the correlation between total left-right asymmetry index and visual scores of lameness was assessed. Thirdly, by using receiver-operated curve (ROC) analysis, optimal cutoff values for these ASIs were then calculated to objectively detect lame pigs.

Results

Lame animals generally showed a shift in loading towards their diagonal and contralateral limbs, resulting in a clear left-right asymmetry. The degree of lameness as graded by visual scoring correlated well with the total left-right ASIs. Lame pigs could be objectively distinguished from sound pigs based on clear cutoff points calculated by ROC analysis for the complete set of four evaluated parameters.

Conclusions

The gait of lame pigs is asymmetric, due to the unloading of the affected limb and concomitant weight redistribution towards other limbs. This asymmetry objectively expressed as total left-right asymmetry, correlates well with the subjective visual lameness scoring and can be used to objectively distinguish lame from sound pigs. Pressure mat gait analysis of pigs, therefore, appears to be a promising and useful tool to objectively quantify and possibly early detect lameness in pigs.

Keywords:
Kinetics; Gait analysis; Porcine; Symmetry; Redistribution; Loading