Shipping stress and social status effects on pig performance, plasma cortisol, natural killer cell activity, and leukocyte numbers.

J. J. McGlone, J. L. Salak, E. A. Lumpkin, R. I. Nicholson, M. Gibson, R. L. Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crossbred pigs were used to evaluate the effects of shipping stress on natural killer (NK) cell activity, leukocyte numbers, plasma cortisol, and BW changes. In the first study, pigs were bled at a commercial farm and, after shipping, resident and shipped pigs were bled again. Plasma cortisol concentrations were not different (P > .10) because of large variation in cortisol concentrations. Furthermore, NK cytotoxicity was nondetectable among all pigs. A second study showed that plasma cortisol concentration rose by approximately 2.6 ng/mL (P = .018) for each minute after pigs were aroused. In the third, more controlled study, pigs were housed in pens of three pigs each. Video recordings were made during the first 24 h pigs were grouped to identify socially dominant, intermediate, and submissive pigs. At time zero (before shipping), resident pigs and those to be shipped had similar plasma cortisol concentrations. However, after the 4-h shipping experience, shipped pigs had elevated (P < .05) plasma cortisol compared with resident control pigs. Shipped pigs lost 5.1% of their BW (P < .05) compared with resident pigs, which gained .02% of their BW. Body weight change during shipping and plasma cortisol were negatively correlated (r = -.34, P = .04), indicating pigs that had greater adrenal response to shipping also lost more weight during shipping. Shipping reduced (P < .05) NK cytotoxicity among pigs of intermediate and submissive social status compared with shipped, dominant pigs. At the end of shipping or control treatments, the correlation between NK cytotoxicity and plasma cortisol was positive (r = .35, P = .036), indicating that pigs with greater cortisol response had greater NK cytotoxicity.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)888-896
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of animal science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1993
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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