Pig behavior related to pen-based oral fluid sample collection

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Holmes, Ashley
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Jeff Zimmerman
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Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine
The mission of VDPAM is to educate current and future food animal veterinarians, population medicine scientists and stakeholders by increasing our understanding of issues that impact the health, productivity and well-being of food and fiber producing animals; developing innovative solutions for animal health and food safety; and providing the highest quality, most comprehensive clinical practice and diagnostic services. Our department is made up of highly trained specialists who span a wide range of veterinary disciplines and species interests. We have faculty of all ranks with expertise in diagnostics, medicine, surgery, pathology, microbiology, epidemiology, public health, and production medicine. Most have earned certification from specialty boards. Dozens of additional scientists and laboratory technicians support the research and service components of our department.
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Background: Use of oral fluid specimens in swine research and diagnostics has become commonplace. Objective of the present study was to evaluate the effect of the number of ropes provided and location in the pen on oral fluid sampling.

Sixty 5-week-old pigs were divided into two groups of 30 (15 gilts, 15 barrows) and housed in two pens identical in size and design. The effect of the number of ropes in the pen on pig oral fluid sampling behavior was evaluated by varying the number of ropes in the pen (1-4). Pig preference for rope location was assessed by observing pigs with 4 ropes in the pen (one at each corner). Four cameras synchronously took pictures at 2 second intervals throughout the sampling period to document pig interactions with the rope. "Pig interaction" was defined as a picture showing a pig's mouth closed around the rope. Oral fluid was collected at the end of each sampling period, aggregated, and volume recorded.

Results: Observations were analyzed at both group and individual level. Mean oral fluid volume and pig interaction increased when more ropes were provided, but 89% of pigs interacted with one rope in the pen. Given a choice of 4 ropes, pigs showed a significant bias toward location.

Conclusions: The data support the interpretation that one rope is sufficient to collect a sample representative of the group. Providing additional ropes increases volume, but this does not increase diagnostic utility. The data likewise suggest that pigs may have a preference for location; this observation will require additional exploration to achieve better understanding.

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Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020