Stress and travel sickness in pigs: Effects of road transport on plasma concentrations of cortisol, beta-endorphin and lysine vasopressin


Two experiments were made to investigate the effects of road transport on stress hormone responses in pigs. In experiment 1, seven 40-kg pigs, prepared with jugular catheters, were loaded onto a livestock lorry and transported over a 2-day period on routes characterized, by means of an accelerometer, as rough or smooth. Two 100-min journeys, one rough and one smooth, separated by a 100-min rest period, were conducted each day. The experimenters travelled with the animals and blood samples were taken for hormone analysis from each pig at 20-min intervals. On the 3rd day, samples were collected from the pigs when housed in their home pen (control). Plasma concentrations of cortisol increased after loading, remained higher for longer on rough compared with smooth journeys and were higher during both journeys on day 1 compared with day 2. Concentrations of beta-endorphin increased after loading on day 1 but neither beta-endorphin nor lysine vasopressin showed clear changes in secretion pattern during rough or smooth journeys. On day 3 (control), mean concentrations of all three hormones were significantly lower than on days 1 and 2, indicating that the responses observed were not due to a diurnal rhythm. In experiment 2, six 35-kg catheterized pigs were loaded on a lorry (09.30 h) that remained stationary while blood samples were taken at 30-min intervals during the next 8 h (control). Two days later, this procedure was repeated with the vehicle in motion for 8 h. Plasma concentrations of lysine vasopressin during driving increased between 2 and 4.5 h which coincided with behavioural observations indicating that the pigs were travel sick.