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Physiol Behav. 2002 Nov;77(2-3):451-7.

Individual differences in behavioral and physiological responses to restraint stress in pigs.

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Human and Animal Physiology Group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 338, 6700 AH Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Several recent studies on pigs have demonstrated a relationship between the degree of resistance displayed early in life in a so-called backtest and a variety of behavioural and physiological responses in piglets and young fattening pigs. To study whether pigs with diverging responses in the backtest, i.e., high-resisting (HR) and low-resisting (LR) pigs, differ also in adulthood in their responses to an acute stressor, adult nulliparous HR (n=36) and LR gilts (n=36) housed in groups or stalls were challenged by 5-min fixation with a nose sling. During the first minute of restraint, HR gilts vocalised significantly more than LR gilts. Over the whole 5-min period, HR gilts tended to vocalise more than LR gilts. Housing or backtest type did not affect immediate cortisol increase (Delta(-5 min; 15 min)). At t=45 min, cortisol concentrations in HR gilts but not in LR gilts were still higher than at t=-5 min. Heart rate quickly decreased during the first min of restraint and remained fairly constant thereafter. Estimated heart rate after 5 min of nose sling was significantly lower in HR gilts compared to LR gilts. Housing or backtest type did not affect heart rate variability indices. The results support the idea that the backtest relates to individual characteristics, which at an adult age also seem to play a role in the regulation of certain behavioral and physiological responses to short-term stress.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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