Recently we were contacted to take part in a long term stress analysis that was being conducted for outdoor, indoor and intensively reared pigs. The normal samples of blood, urine or saliva will give a instant reading of the pigs current stress level, but that does not help for long term analysis.
The answer is through taking hair samples. So the researcher Lisa pictured below set off down our field with her assistant and a small team of helpers that we had assembled. The process involved cutting a small amount of hair from the head, the back and near the tail all to be separately bagged and identified. The samples needed to be taken from 10 sows of the same breed who were kept in the same environment.
So with one of our helpers distributing food to distract the pig and keep the others at bay, another opened and identified the sample bags, while Lisa cut the samples. Another helper kept an eye on which pig we were sampling as they jostled for food and another read the tag and notch numbers so we could provide details of each pig’s age, number of litters etc, whilst the last helper sealed the bags and grouped them together in batches.
And surprisingly no-one fell over or got stuck in the mud, and the pigs were all very co-operative. The results are due in April, so watch this space.