R. Bras. Zootec.. 01/Jan/2017;46(1):33-8.

Peripheral regulation of stress and fear responses in pigs from tail-biting pens

Manja Zupan, Adroaldo José Zanella

DOI: 10.1590/S1806-92902017000100006


This study focused on stress physiology by characterizing cortisol responses to stressors in tail biters (n = 10), victims (n = 10), and control pigs (n = 10) of two different breeds (Landrace × Yorkshire, LY; Landrace/Yorkshire × Landrace/Duroc; LYLD) and sexes (females and castrated males). We exposed pigs to 10 min of isolation with a human at the farm and transported them to a controlled environment. There, the behaviour was registered for 10 min during sessions when subjected to a novel object test and to a novel arena test. Sampling times of salivary cortisol were in all the fear tests before testing and 60 min thereafter, while for transportation as well 120 min after the beginning of transportation. We additionally measured cortisol at 7:00 and 16:00 h during three days following transportation. The basal stress axis activity followed a distinct diurnal rhythm between sexes and breeds, with castrated males having higher cortisol level than females and LY pigs higher than LYLD pigs. Following isolation at the farm and transportation, the concentration of salivary cortisol was higher in LY than in LYLD pigs. Pigs considered the exposure to a novel arena, but not to a novel object, stressful by showing a cortisol level after testing higher than before testing. The results suggest a genotypic effect on sensitivity to stress in pigs that have performed tail biting, have been victimized, or have not been involved in tail biting.

Peripheral regulation of stress and fear responses in pigs from tail-biting pens