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Saskatchewan-connected research on hair analysis finds new way to test stress in pigs

By Bruce Cochrane, Farmscape

An international research effort, with ties to Saskatchewan, is looking at the potential of measuring hormone levels in the hair of pigs to identify genetic lines that will be less affected by stress. And the ground-breaking work is expected to be of particular interest to breeding companies.

Researchers with Iowa State University, the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta and CDPQ are collaborating on a project under which the levels of three stress hormones in the hair of pigs are being measured to evaluate the effect of stress on performance and on disease resilience.

Dr. Jack Dekkers, a distinguished professor in the Department of Animal Science at Iowa State University and the Principal Investigator, said, by correlating the levels of stress hormones in the hair to growth performance and disease resilience, it should be possible to identify genetic lines of pigs that will be more or less affected by stress.

”The main immediate users would be the breeding organizations and they would use it to measure stress hormone levels hair in the nucleus and then be able use that as a proxy for selecting for disease resilience.
Right now, breeding companies have limited ability to select pigs that are more resilient to disease so they have a big challenge in selecting for disease resilience and this would give them a tool that would allow them to indirectly select for disease resilience. Ben then commercial producers could also use this information. By collecting hair on pigs shortly after weaning and analysing that for the stress hormones and identify which of all the pigs that are in a batch, which of them are likely more susceptible to disease and then perhaps put them in a separate group where they can be kept a closer eye on or given preventative treatment,” explained Dr. Jack Dekkers from Iowa State University.

Dr. Dekkers likened the approach to precision medicine in humans where, depending on the results of assays, different groups of pigs are treated in a different way to prevent disease.

Source : Saskpork

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