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Open Access Research article

Pressure mat analysis of the longitudinal development of pig locomotion in growing pigs after weaning

Ellen Meijer1*, Christian P Bertholle1, Maarten Oosterlinck2, Franz Josef van der Staay1, Willem Back23 and Arie van Nes1

Author Affiliations

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

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

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

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BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:37  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-37

Published: 6 February 2014

Abstract

Background

Gait evaluation is difficult in pigs, especially when objective and quantitative data are needed, thus little research has been conducted in this species. There is considerable experience, however, with objective gait analysis in other species, such as horses and dogs. In this study, a pressure mat was used to establish baseline kinetic data for gait and its longitudinal development in growing, weaned piglets.

Ten clinically healthy weaned piglets were trained to trot over a pressure mat. Measurements were performed weekly during 10 weeks, starting at 5 weeks of age. Four kinetic parameters were recorded for all four limbs: peak vertical force (PVF), load rate (LR), vertical impulse (VI) and peak vertical pressure (PVP). Three representative runs per measuring session per pig were collected. For each of the variables, left vs. right limb asymmetry-indices (ASI’s) were calculated based on the average for that parameter per week. A linear mixed model was used to determine the influence of time (week), velocity, and limb (left vs. right, and fore vs. hind). Intra-class correlations were calculated to assess within-session replicability.

Results

Intra-class correlations showed good within-session replicability. Body-weight normalized PVF (nPVF), LR (nLR), VI (nVI) and PVP (nPVP) were higher in the forelimbs than in the hind limbs. A higher velocity was associated with a higher nPVF, nLR and nPVP. All parameters varied between weeks. ASI of LR and VI were higher in the forelimbs than in the hind limbs. Velocity and time did not influence ASI of any of the variables.

Conclusions

Kinetic pressure mat measurements from healthy weaned piglets are highly replicable within-session. However, these variables present a significant variability between-session, which may be due to conformational changes of the young, growing piglets. Velocity clearly influences nPVF, nLR and nPVP, and all kinetic variables have higher values in forelimbs than in hind limbs. As time and velocity do not affect ASI’s, the latter are preferable tools when velocity cannot be controlled or when measurements are repeated over longer time intervals. The present study supports the use of a pressure mat as an objective way to analyze and quantify porcine gait.

Keywords:
Kinetics; Gait analysis; Pig; Symmetry