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Published on Feb. 1, 2022

How to: Reduce animal stress

Understanding and recognizing animal stress can be a complex endeavor. With stress presenting itself in different ways, the impact it has can also widely vary between animals and species. When pigs are stressed, not only can this directly impact performance, reproduction, behavior, immunity, and meat quality, but it also impacts a producer’s economic sustainability and social sustainability of pork production.

Throughout a pig’s life, there are several contributors and key life events that result in increased stress. These are important to recognize and mitigate in order to minimize the impact on the animals.

What can cause stress?

We know that stress generally occurs when the pigs are required to make extreme or prolonged adjustments in order to adapt to their current environment or surroundings. The stress they may experience can be linked to social, environmental, metabolic, immunological, and by improper human handling. Some examples of common contributing factors of stress include:

  • Social - being mixed into new groups of pigs. Any change that would destabilize their normal hierarchical social structure is stressful.
  • Environmental - incorrect temperature for the size of pig, inadequate space for the number of animals, or changes to housing in general.
  • Metabolic - food or water deprivation or change in composition.
  • Immunological – diseases challenges.

What is the impact of stress?

Stress is an individual response that generates variable and uncontrollable effects. When looking at the entire impact that stress causes, we can see multiple effects it has for producers, animals and the industry.

Environmental: Stress causes increased mortality rates, which causes more waste. Environmental impact is heightened by wasted feed and other resources used to raise them.

Social: Having unhappy, stressed pigs influences the caregivers as well.  The impact of having animals in distress directly impacts the emotions of farm staff. From a consumer perspective, the health and welfare of animals is also important.

Evolution: Due to the impact that stress can cause on animal development, this often will directly relate to the evolution for future generations. This impact will decrease the effectiveness of progression in relevant traits for future generations.

Economic: Stressed pigs often have poor performance, resulting in decreased performance and increased mortality rates. These pigs require more care, which increases the labor costs. Finally, stress affects pork quality, which may influence producer returns and impact the eating quality for consumers.

Evaluating animal treatments

Throughout a pig’s life there can be various animal treatments, each providing different benefits. Although these treatments provide benefit to the animals, producers and the industry, they do not come without careful consideration.

Animal treatments that involve handling also involve stress. From vaccinations to castrations, these treatments provide benefits, but also cause stress and should be carefully evaluated to determine if the reward outweighs the risk.

Hypor, the swine brand of Hendrix Genetics, takes stress seriously and we strive to breed animals that can better handle stress and thrive in all environments around the world. Most importantly, this strategy will improve the health and welfare of our animals. As we make these improvements, we are always looking for ways to improve the overall health and well-being of our animals today and tomorrow.

Happier and healthier animals will also improve the product quantity (better animal survival) and quality. Lastly, there will be increased consumer acceptance of pork products and the way those products get to their table.

To address pig stress, there are two main targets: 1. Modify the animal’s response to stress through animal breeding and 2. Remove or minimize the stressors that occur in a pig’s life. We are committed to both targets. Every day we strive to breed pigs that are better able to cope with stressful situations and thrive in any environment by being more resilient. Our team of experts are here to help customers improve their performance.

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