Individual and pen-based oral fluid sampling: A welfare-friendly sampling method for group-housed gestating sows

Prev Vet Med. 2017 Nov 1;147:58-65. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2017.08.011. Epub 2017 Sep 6.


The aims of this study were to assess the feasibility of individual and pen-based oral fluid sampling (OFS) in 35 pig herds with group-housed sows, compare these methods to blood sampling, and assess the factors influencing the success of sampling. Individual samples were collected from at least 30 sows per herd. Pen-based OFS was performed using devices placed in at least three pens for 45min. Information related to the farm, the sows, and their living conditions were collected. Factors significantly associated with the duration of sampling and the chewing behaviour of sows were identified by logistic regression. Individual OFS took 2min 42s on average; the type of floor, swab size, and operator were associated with a sampling time >2min. Pen-based OFS was obtained from 112 devices (62.2%). The type of floor, parity, pen-level activity, and type of feeding were associated with chewing behaviour. Pen activity was associated with the latency to interact with the device. The type of floor, gestation stage, parity, group size, and latency to interact with the device were associated with a chewing time >10min. After 15, 30 and 45min of pen-based OFS, 48%, 60% and 65% of the sows were lying down, respectively. The time spent after the beginning of sampling, genetic type, and time elapsed since the last meal were associated with 50% of the sows lying down at one time point. The mean time to blood sample the sows was 1min 16s and 2min 52s if the number of operators required was considered in the sampling time estimation. The genetic type, parity, and type of floor were significantly associated with a sampling time higher than 1min 30s. This study shows that individual OFS is easy to perform in group-housed sows by a single operator, even though straw-bedded animals take longer to sample than animals housed on slatted floors, and suggests some guidelines to optimise pen-based OFS success.

Keywords: Behaviour; Group housing; Oral fluid sampling; Sow; Welfare.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Blood Chemical Analysis / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Pregnancy
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Specimen Handling / instrumentation
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Sus scrofa*