Stress Hormones Levels Offer Potential as Indicator of Value of Animal Care Practices

Farmscape for January 6, 2022

Scientists with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are examining the potential value of measuring the levels of hormones that indicate stress as a means of evaluating the effects of various animal care practices on animal welfare and productivity.
Researchers with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine are looking at how various biological markers relate to different animal welfare states, whether positive or negative, focussing on cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone or DHEA, in an effort to identify measurable indicators of animal welfare.
Dr. Yolande Seddon, an Assistant Professor of Swine Behaviour and Welfare with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine and NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Swine Welfare, explains the goal is to develop new measurements and monitoring tools to determine how animal care practices influence the animals, their welfare and their productivity.

Clip-Dr. Yolande Seddon-Western College of Veterinary Medicine:
Specifically, at this point we have chosen to focus on chronic measures, so looking at this cortisol and DHEA in the swine hair.
This is to identify the stress hormones of animals over a longer period of time and to look at the ratio between cortisol and DHEA to identify, do we have an animal that has had better or lower stress resilience and how that relates to the welfare of the animal.
As an offset of this, if we can identify animals that have higher or lower resilience to stress, then that is an avenue into implications for genetic selection of animals.
In collaboration with Iowa State University, we are looking at this with regards to genetic identifiers of disease resilience in swine and how this relates to the cortisol and DHEA in swine hair.

Dr. Seddon expects this information to be of value to researchers, to those involved in genetic selection and to those developing animal welfare verification programs.
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Bruce Cochrane.

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