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In order to evaluate at the slaughterhouse external carcass lesions on heavy pigs (170 kg) as potential welfare indicators, and the prevalence of ham defects determining ham exclusion from Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) markets, 732 pig batches from northern Italy were monitored during a 12-month period, and then processed analysing the effect of slaughter season, overnight lairage, and production type. On the slaughter line, skin scratches were separately scored in the posterior region (defined as the area including the hind legs and the tail) and the anterior one (as the remaining area), while the whole carcass was examined for external hematomas. Chronic ear and tail lesions referable to the rearing phase, and bursitis were recorded as retrospective welfare indicators. The annual median prevalence of carcasses per batch with severe anterior scratches was 64% while 46.4% had severe posterior scratches. The highest autumn score for both skin scratches (P < 0.001) and traumatic ham defects (P = 0.005) is reflected in the positive correlation between severe posterior scratches and ham hematomas (r2 = 0.27; P < 0.001). Overnight lairage batches resulted in higher prevalence for scratches, while among ham defects only veining increased. Among binary records, only ear lesions were frequently recorded (annual median = 10%). A comparison analysis between pigs in and out of PDO circuit was performed to evaluate the variation related to the different genetics, showing differences for ear and tail lesions and for almost all the considered ham defects. The present study confirms that skin lesions represent a problem also for heavy pigs and that overnight lairage and season can affect their prevalence, with the associated possibility to give ham defects. Ear lesions are suitable to be used as retrospective welfare indicator, while tail lesions usage is nowadays limited by the extensive use of tail docking.
PMID: 30418998 [PubMed - in process]