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  • Open Access

Haptoglobin as an Indicator for Animal Welfare: Effects of Different Hygienic Conditions and Transport Stress on Haptoglobin Plasma Concentration

  • 1,
  • 1,
  • 2,
  • 3,
  • 2 and
  • 1
Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica200344 (Suppl 1) :P33

  • Published:


  • Cortisol
  • Negative Control Group
  • Hygienic Condition
  • Fattening Group
  • Haptoglobin Level

The aim of the present work was to examine the suitability of the acute-phase-protein (APP) haptoglobin (Hp) as an indicator of animal welfare represented by different hygienic conditions and transport stress.

2 breeder-fattening farms with different hygienic conditions recorded by specific checklists were examined by monitoring 2 indicator groups of 16 pigs from each farm. Haptoglobin determination was performed 4 times by blood sampling from the end of the rearing period up to 4 weeks after housing, weight gain and clinical symptoms were observed. In contrast to farm A, farm B only acquired half of the maximally available points concerning relevant hygiene factors and was therefore rated "unsufficient". The pigs of farm B showed more often clinical symptoms than those of farm A which was reflected by comparing the time course of growth of the two fattening groups. The performance of pigs in farm A followed the normally observed physiological course of growth while the growth of pigs in farm B was depressed. It were conspicuous that there was also statistically significant differences in Hp-concentration between animals showing no observable clinical deficits from farm B in comparison to pigs from farm A.

The results showed that the acute phase protein haptoglobin is a very sensitive parameter that can support the evaluation of the general health status of fattening pigs.

To examine the suitability of the parameter haptoglobin as an indicator for transport stress the course of the haptoglobin plasma and cortisol saliva concentrations in 93 fattening pigs was monitored for four days at weights of 30 and 80 kg. At the beginning of the study pigs were randomly assigned to one of three test protocol groups:

  • Negative control group: no treatment

  • Transport group: 3 hours transport

  • Myostress group: injection of myostress, which is normally used for testing stress with the creatine-kinase-test.

To observe if animals having haptoglobin levels above or below the cut-off value of 0.5 mg/ml react differently to stress the haptoglobin measurements were divided into 2 groups – those above 0.5 mg/ml and those below this value. The experimental treatment did not significantly influence the haptoglobin levels of the examined animals but significant changes because of the health status could be observed. The parameter cortisol did however show a significant increase in both 30 and 80 kg pigs after transport.

This results reveal that transport stress can be monitored by evaluating cortisol levels whereas haptoglobin does not appear to be a significant parameter for measuring transport stress but as an sensitive indicator for the health status of fattening pigs. Therefore haptoglobin can be a valuable tool within the scope of supplier assessment.

Authors’ Affiliations

Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Hygiene of Domestic Animals, Katzenburgweg 7-9, 53115 Bonn, Germany
Department of Animal Breeding, Bonn, Germany
Medical Center, München, Germany


© The Author(s); licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2003

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.