Publications by authors named "Mari Heinonen"

49 Publications

Antimicrobial use, biosecurity, herd characteristics, and antimicrobial resistance in indicator Escherichia coli in ten Finnish pig farms.

Prev Vet Med 2021 Aug 10;193:105408. Epub 2021 Jun 10.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Finland.

We investigated connections between antimicrobial use (AMU), biosecurity, and the numbers of pigs and staff in ten Finnish farrow-to-finish herds. Data on AMU in each herd were collected for 12 months. AMU was quantified as treatment incidences per 1000 days at risk (TI) using the consensus defined daily dose calculation. Biosecurity was scored using the Biocheck.UGent™ system. We also examined antimicrobial resistance patterns of indicator E. coli isolated from faeces of selected pigs. In each herd, two groups of five pigs were formed: 1) antimicrobial treatment group (ANT: at least one pig in the litter was identified as sick and treated with antimicrobials) and 2) non-antimicrobial treatment group (NON: the litter was not medicated). Faecal samples were taken from these pigs at 5 and 22 weeks of age, cultured, and indicator E. coli isolates were tested for antimicrobial susceptibilities. The AMU varied considerably between the herds. Altogether, most of the antimicrobial treatment courses were assigned to weaned piglets. When AMU was quantified as TIs, suckling piglets had the highest TI (mean 46.6), which was significantly higher (P < 0.05) than TIs in fatteners and breeders (9.3 and 7.3, respectively). The difference between TI in suckling and TI in weaned piglets (19.1) was not statistically significant. There was a tendency for a negative correlation between the TI in breeders and the number of sows (r = -0.56, P = 0.09). Larger herds had higher external biosecurity scores than smaller herds (LS-means; 72 vs. 66, P < 0.05). The proportions of E. coli isolates resistant to at least one antimicrobial were higher in pigs at 5 weeks than in pigs at 22 weeks of age (Binomial proportion means; 40.5 % vs. 15.5 %, P < 0.05); as well as proportions of isolates resistant to at least three antimicrobial classes (23.0 % vs. 3.7 %, P < 0.01). These proportions did not differ between the ANT and NON groups at either 5 or 22 weeks of age (P> 0.05). We found few connections: enhanced external biosecurity levels found in the large herds co-occurred with lower use of antimicrobials and herds with low biosecurity scores - especially in the internal subcategories - appeared to have higher proportions of resistant isolates. Conclusively, we suggest that enhancing internal biosecurity might contribute to a reduction in the spreading of antimicrobial resistance in pig herds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2021.105408DOI Listing
August 2021

Herd-Level and Individual Differences in Fecal Lactobacilli Dynamics of Growing Pigs.

Animals (Basel) 2021 Jan 7;11(1). Epub 2021 Jan 7.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, 04920 Saarentaus, Finland.

We studied the fecal lactobacilli count and species diversity of growing pigs along with immune parameters associated with intestinal lactobacilli. Thirty pigs categorized as small (S, = 12) or large (L, = 18) at birth were followed from birth to slaughter in two commercial herds, H1 and H2. Herds differed in terms of their general management. We determined sow colostrum quality, colostrum intake, piglet serum immunoglobulins, and pig growth. We took individual fecal samples from pigs in the weaning and finishing units. We studied lactobacilli count and identified their diversity with 16S PCR. Total lactobacilli count increased in H1 and decreased in H2 between samplings. Lactobacilli species diversity was higher in H1 in both fecal sampling points, whereas diversity decreased over time in both herds. We identified altogether seven lactobacilli species with a maximum of five (one to five) species in one herd. However, a relatively large proportion of lactobacilli remained unidentified with the used sequencing technique. Small pigs had higher lactobacilli counts in both herds but the difference was significant only in H2 ( = 0.01). Colostrum quality was numerically better in H1 than in H2, where colostrum intake tended to be associated with total lactobacilli count ( = 0.05).
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11010113DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7827896PMC
January 2021

Herd-level risk factors for chronic pleurisy in finishing pigs: a case-control study.

Porcine Health Manag 2020 2;6:21. Epub 2020 Sep 2.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, FI-04920 Saarentaus, Finland.

Background: Chronic pleurisy is a common finding in slaughtered pigs in post-mortem meat inspection. The prevalence of pleurisy has been increasing during the last decade also in Finland. The aim of this prospective case-control study was to search for environmental, infectious and management-related herd-level risk factors for pleurisy in the slaughterhouse. Altogether 46 Finnish pig herds, including 25 control (low pleurisy prevalence in meat inspection) and 21 case (high pleurisy) herds, were enrolled in the study and visited during the tenth week of the rearing period of finishing pigs. Herd personnel were asked about basic herd information, management and environmental factors. Selected pigs were examined clinically, environmental parameters were measured and 15 blood samples per herd were taken during herd visits. Antibodies against serotype 2 (APP2) and ApxIV toxin and swine influenza virus were measured. After the slaughter of study pigs, meat inspection results of the batch were gathered from slaughterhouses. Multivariate logistic regression model was built to identify possible risk factors for a herd to be a case herd (i.e. having high pleurisy values).

Results: Finishing herd type and herd size were observed to act as risk factors. None of clinical signs of pigs, management-related factors or environmental measurements were associated with herd status.

Conclusions: As previously known, in endemic and subclinical infections such as APP, herd factors are important, but detailed risk factors seem to be difficult to identify.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-020-00156-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7462658PMC
September 2020

Intact Tails as a Welfare Indicator in Finishing Pigs? Scoring of Tail Lesions and Defining Intact Tails in Undocked Pigs at the Abattoir.

Front Vet Sci 2020 16;7:405. Epub 2020 Jul 16.

Department of Production Animal Medicine and Research Centre for Animal Welfare, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Tail biting lesions are a potential measure of on-farm animal welfare, as a large range of stressors increase the risk for tail biting outbreaks. Further, tail biting is a major challenge, as lesions due to tail biting decrease animal welfare and health, as well as production efficiency and carcass quality. The aim of this study was to suggest a tail scoring system for use at slaughterhouses processing undocked pigs, and to link tail lesion scores to meat inspection data. A further aim was to suggest a definition for an intact enough tail. To validate the suggested scoring system we assessed tails before and after scalding and compared results to pathological examinations. In total, 14,433 tails were scored, and 117 tails were collected for pathological examination. After scalding, 49.2% of all tails were scored as fully intact. Of tails with lesions 2.5% were scored as having major acute wounds (>2 cm), while 11.6% had minor acute wounds (<2 cm), and 36.7% healed lesions. Intact tails were on average 31.5 cm (SD 2.5 cm) long. Lesion scored at the slaughter-line agreed well with the pathological assessment. Tail lesions were associated with several meat inspection findings: tails with more severe lesions and of shorter length increased the risk for meat inspection findings to a higher degree. A detailed lesion scoring method helps to identify carcasses at risk for condemnations, as well as being a potential method for on-farm welfare estimation. We suggest that a system for scoring tail lesions in undocked pigs should utilize a combination of scoring of the lesion and measuring the tail length. As bite marks or bruises on an otherwise intact tail were not a concern for meat hygiene, we suggest the definition of an intact enough tail could allow the inclusion of tails with these mild changes. Meat inspection findings in carcasses with tails scored as healed, but with no fresh lesions, and with more than 75% of the average intact length remaining were rather similar to those of fully intact tails. Based on these findings we suggest that a tail of this length, and with no visible fresh lesions could also be considered intact enough.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00405DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7378396PMC
July 2020

Progesterone and Luteinizing hormone secretion patterns in early pregnant gilts.

Reprod Domest Anim 2020 Jul 5;55(7):795-804. Epub 2020 Jun 5.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Saarentaus, Finland.

We studied luteinizing hormone (LH) pulsatility and episodic progesterone release of the corpus luteum (CL) on Day 11 and Day 21 in inseminated gilts and aimed to establish a relationship between these two hormones. Blood was collected at 15-min intervals for 12 hr on Days 11, 16 and 21 from a vena cava caudalis catheter. At euthanasia, eight gilts were pregnant and six gilts were not pregnant. Progesterone parameters (basal, mean, pulse frequency and pulse amplitude) did not differ between pregnant and non-pregnant gilts on Day 11, LH pulse frequency and amplitude tended to differ (p = .07 and p = .079). In pregnant gilts, basal and mean progesterone, progesterone pulse amplitude and frequency declined significantly from Day 11 to Day 21 (p < .05). A significant decline was also seen in the LH pulse amplitude from Day 11 to Day 21 (p < .05). None of the LH pulses was followed by a progesterone pulse within 1 hr on Day 21. On Day 11 and Day 21 appeared a synchronicity in the LH pulse pattern, as there were two or three LH pulses in 12 hr and these LH pulses appeared in the same time window. We conclude that on Day 11 and Day 21 of pregnancy in gilts, progesterone pulses do not follow an LH pulse within one hour. Further we demonstrated that the successful or not successful formation of a CL of pregnancy is independent of progesterone release on Day 11 after insemination. We confirmed the decline of progesterone from Day 11 to Day 21 in the vena cava caudalis and could demonstrate that this decline is partly due to lower progesterone pulse amplitude and frequency and that the decline occurs simultaneously with a decline in LH pulse amplitude.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/rda.13686DOI Listing
July 2020

Pathological findings in spontaneously dead and euthanized sows - a descriptive study.

Porcine Health Manag 2019 20;5:25. Epub 2019 Nov 20.

2Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, Saarentaus, 04920 Mäntsälä, Finland.

Background: A high rate of euthanized and spontaneously dead sows causes production losses and likely indicates underlying welfare problems. Identification of predisposing factors to on-farm deaths requires a thorough understanding of the causes. Post-mortem examination is needed for a proper diagnosis. The aims of this descriptive study were to determine causes of spontaneous deaths and euthanasia in sows in a convenience sample of Finnish herds and to describe pathological findings in the locomotor system and in teeth and gums.

Results: This study described post-mortem findings in 65 sows found dead or euthanized on 15 farms. All but one of the sows presented with two or more pathological findings. The majority of primary pathologic-anatomic diagnoses (PAD-1) were inflammatory. The most prevalent diagnoses were arthritis and peritonitis (9% of sows each). The locomotor system was the body part most commonly affected by lesions. Findings in the locomotor system unassociated with death were present in 85% of the animals, additionally 29% of PAD-1 s concerned the locomotor system. The prevalence for both degenerative joint disease and tooth wear was 71%. Farmers had noted clinical signs within 30 days of death in every euthanized sow and in half of the spontaneously dead ones. The farmer's impression of the cause of death agreed at least partly with the PAD-1 in 44% of the cases.

Conclusion: Multiple pathologies were the norm in the present animals. This may indicate an extended course of illness and therefore also an unnecessary delay in medical treatment or euthanasia. The prevalence and clinical relevance of the most common disorders, including degenerative joint disease and tooth wear, need to be elucidated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-019-0132-yDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6864960PMC
November 2019

Structural characterization of piglet producing farms and their sow removal patterns in Finland.

Porcine Health Manag 2019 31;5:12. Epub 2019 May 31.

1Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920, Saarentaus, Helsinki, Finland.

Background: The main objectives of this observational, cross-sectional study were to characterize piglet producing farms in Finland and to investigate how farm profiles are associated with sow culling and mortality.The study was conducted on 43 farms during 2014. A questionnaire survey was administered in-person and supplemented with observations in the housing facilities. Annual removal figures and average monthly sow inventories were retrieved from a centralized animal data recording system (National Swine Registry) administered by the Finnish Food Authority. Multiple correspondence analysis and hierarchical clustering were used to explore the complex underlying data-driven patterns.

Results: Sow removal varied markedly between farms with an overall average culling percentage of 38.0% (95% CI 34.1-42.0) and a relatively high average mortality percentage 9.7% (95% CI 7.9-11.5). We identified three farm clusters, which differed both in their typologies and removal patterns. Cluster 1 included farms with features indicative of a semi-intensive or intensive kind of farming, such as larger herd and room sizes, higher stocking density and more sows per caretaker. Most of the cluster 1 farms exceeded the investigated cut-off levels for culling and mortality. Cluster 2 farms were estimated to have the best animal welfare among the sample farms based on a combination of environmental indicators (e.g. amount of bedding, rooting and nesting materials, space allowance, pen cleanliness) and the lowest level of sow mortality as an animal-based indicator. Cluster 3 farms followed a strategy of a rather non-intensified system based on the predominance of smaller herd size, lower stocking density and less sows per caretaker, combined breeding and gestation rooms and rare use of farrowing induction. This cluster showed the lowest culling levels within the sample.

Conclusions: This study captures the diversity among Finnish sow farms and provides a baseline assessment of their practices and facilities. Our results support the notion that farm typologies are associated with sow culling and mortality. In summary, the control of suboptimal sow removal cannot be based on single improvements only, because of other limitations within the individual farm resources.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-019-0119-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6540429PMC
May 2019

Behavioural alterations in piglets after surgical castration: Effects of analgesia and anaesthesia.

Res Vet Sci 2019 Aug 16;125:36-42. Epub 2019 May 16.

Production Animal Hospital, Department of Production Animal Medicine, P.O. Box 66, 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland.

The present study aimed to use behavioural measures to assess pain induced by surgical castration of piglets, and evaluate the efficacy of pain-relief medications. In total, 143 male piglets from 29 sows were used. The treatments included: 1) non-castration (NC; n = 28), 2) castration without medication (SC; n = 29), 3) castration with meloxicam injection 0.4 mg/kg i.m. (ME; n = 28), 4) castration with 0.5 ml of 2% lidocaine in each testicle (LA; n = 29), and 5) castration with general inhalation anaesthesia using isoflurane (1.5%) and meloxicam injection (GA; n = 29). Behaviour was monitored continuously for a ten minute period one hour prior to castration (-1 h), as well as immediately (0 h), one hour (1 h), and two hours (2 h) after castration. Behaviour was also monitored twice (08:00 and 20:00) during the following day. Compared to -1 h, castration induced changes in several behavioural measures in SC piglets at 0 h, suggesting that castration was painful. Furthermore, inactive standing or sitting, tail wagging and aggressive behaviour differed between SC and NC piglets at 0 h. ME and LA piglets spent less time standing or sitting inactively, and LA and GA piglets showed more tail wagging than SC piglets at 0 h (P < 0.05 for all). No other behavioural measures differed among the various groups of castrated piglets. In conclusion, the results indicate that surgical castration is indeed painful. However, the efficacy of various pain-relief protocols in piglets shortly after castration was not verified.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rvsc.2019.05.009DOI Listing
August 2019

RAVITA Technology - new innovation for combined phosphorus and nitrogen recovery.

Water Sci Technol 2018 Dec;78(12):2511-2517

Helsinki Region Environmental Services HSY, Helsinki, Finland E-mail:

Present phosphorus (P) recovery technologies mainly contain P recovery from sludge liquor or ash. These types of technologies are suitable for large wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with enhanced biological phosphorus removal (EBPR), digestion and/or incineration. In Finland and other Nordic countries, strict P discharge limits require chemical precipitation, thus EBPR alone is not sufficient. Ammonium recovery from wastewater, on the other hand, is not so often discussed. However, recovery from WWTP reject waters would decrease the energy demand of ammonium synthesis by Haber-Bosh technology and the energy demand of the WWTP's biological process. Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority (HSY) has developed a new process called RAVITA whereby P and nitrogen recovery are combined in order to produce phosphoric acid (HPO) and ammonium phosphate (NH)PO. Furthermore, in this process metal salt used in precipitation is recovered. The research was carried out on pilot (1,000 population equivalent) and laboratory scales. The objectives of this article are to explain the principles of the RAVITA process and give the first results of processing and production of chemical sludge.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/wst.2019.011DOI Listing
December 2018

Anti-Ascaris suum IgG antibodies in fattening pigs with different respiratory conditions.

Vet Parasitol 2019 Jan 13;265:85-90. Epub 2018 Dec 13.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920, Saarentaus, Finland.

During their migration through the pig's body, Ascaris suum larvae cause significant damage to the lungs. Little is known about the actual impact of this tissue damage on the occurrence and severity of respiratory problems in industrial pig fattening farms. In this study, we evaluated the link between the serological response to two different A. suum antigen preparations and respiratory or meat inspection outcomes. Two different serological tests were used that measure antibodies against either the A. suum haemoglobin molecule or complete homogenate of the 3rd stage larva that migrate through the lungs. Firstly, serum samples were analysed that were collected from 19 herds in which the cause of acute clinical respiratory symptoms was either Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, A. suum, or a miscellaneous cause. This was done to test whether serological results could confirm pathological findings. Secondly, serum samples from 60 herds of finishing pigs with a history of high or low frequency of pleuritis at meat inspection (MI), but without acute respiratory symptoms at the time of sampling, were also submitted for serological evaluation using both tests. Regression models were used to search for potential associations between the proportion of pigs testing seropositive with MI results, in particular pathological changes related to the lungs. The results of both ELISAs were strongly associated (P  < 0.001) with pigs belonging to a herd where the respiratory problems could be attributed to A. suum by histology, indicating that both tests can be used to diagnose clinical respiratory outbreaks due to A. suum. In the herds without acute clinical respiratory symptoms, a positive association was found between the proportion of pigs testing seropositive and the percentage of livers rejected due to milk spots and with whole carcass condemnations. No association was found between Ascaris serology and lung pathology (pneumonia and pleuritis) registered at MI, however, challenging the likely involvement of Ascaris in the development of these lesions.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2018.12.005DOI Listing
January 2019

Assessment of the feasibility of serological monitoring and on-farm information about health status for the future meat inspection of fattening pigs.

Prev Vet Med 2019 Jan 20;162:76-82. Epub 2018 Nov 20.

Department of Food Hygiene and Environmental Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, P.O Box 66, 00014, University of Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address:

Current macroscopic meat inspection cannot detect the most common pork-borne pathogens (Salmonella spp., Yersinia enterocolitica and Toxoplasma gondii). Furthermore, food chain information (FCI) may not provide sufficient data for visual-only inspection, which is supposed to be the common way of inspection of pigs in the European Union. Our observational study aimed to evaluate the serological monitoring and the clinical evaluation of on-farm health status of pigs and assess the feasibility of these data as part of the FCI in meat inspection. We studied the serological status of Salmonella spp., Yersinia spp. and T. gondii in pigs during the fattening period. Additionally, we evaluated the association between on-farm health status and meat inspection findings. On 57 indoor fattening pig farms in Finland, we collected blood samples (mean of 20 pigs/farm) and assessed the on-farm health (coughing, tail biting, lameness) at the end of the fattening period. We visited 34 of these farms also at the beginning of the fattening for sampling and on-farm health evaluation of the same pigs. Meat inspection results were obtained after slaughter for all 57 farms. Salmonella seroprevalence was low at the end of the fattening period: it was 17.6%, 10.6% or 1.9%, with the cut-off values of OD15% (recommended by the test manufacturer), OD20% (used by Danish monitoring programme) and OD40% (used by German monitoring programme), respectively. The overall seroprevalence of Salmonella spp. and Yersinia spp. increased significantly (P < 0.001) during the fattening period (from 8.1% to 17.2% and from 30.3% to 72.3%, respectively), while the seroprevalence of T. gondii remained low (<1%). The within-farm seroprevalences of Salmonella spp. and Yersinia spp. differed significantly between the farms and this farm-level serological data could be used as FCI for risk-based decisions to improve food safety. Such potentially feasible decisions could include additional carcass testing, carcass decontamination, carcass processing, slaughtering arrangements and improved biosecurity measures at the farm. However, risk mitigation targets and procedures must be carefully adjusted for each pathogen regarding also economic aspects. Tail biting observed on farm was associated with partial carcass condemnations and arthritis at slaughter. This information could be included in the FCI and used when making decisions regarding meat inspection procedure: visual-only or additional inspections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.11.009DOI Listing
January 2019

GnRH-agonist deslorelin implant alters the progesterone release pattern during early pregnancy in gilts.

Reprod Domest Anim 2019 Mar 11;54(3):464-472. Epub 2019 Jan 11.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Saarentaus, Finland.

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship of progesterone (P) and luteinizing hormone (LH) during recognition and establishment of pregnancy in the gilt. Therefore, the effects of eliminating episodic LH pulses on P patterns were determined during early pregnancy. To this end, a slow-release GnRH implant deslorelin was used for GnRH down-regulation. A group of gilts (GnRHa, n = 8) was implanted with the GnRH-agonist on Day 11 of pregnancy, while a control group (C, n = 5) was treated with a non-impregnated placebo implant. Blood was collected via a vena cava caudalis catheter at 10-min intervals for 8 hr on Day 16 and 21 of pregnancy. As expected, the GnRH implant reduced LH secretion (p < 0.01) and abolished LH pulses completely at Day 16 and Day 21 of pregnancy. On Day 16, there was no difference in P levels between the treatments. However, on Day 21, the GnRH-agonist treatment led to significantly increased P concentrations (p < 0.01) compared with the control gilts. Progesterone was secreted in a pulsatile manner in both treatment groups and no relationship between LH pulsatility and P pulsatility was observed. In conclusion, abolishment of LH pulsatility did not affect the pulsatile pattern of P secretion but led to an unexpected overall increase in P on Day 21 of pregnancy; this effect was delayed and occurred 10 days after commencing treatment with the GnRH depot agonist. The elevation of P on Day 21 of pregnancy in the GnRHa group suggests either a reduced negative feedback effect or an increased autocrine response by the corpora lutea.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/rda.13376DOI Listing
March 2019

Sow removal in commercial herds: Patterns and animal level factors in Finland.

Prev Vet Med 2018 Nov 25;159:30-39. Epub 2018 Aug 25.

University of Helsinki, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Production Animal Medicine, Paroninkuja 20, 04920 Saarentaus, Finland. Electronic address:

This observational retrospective cohort study provides benchmarking information on recent sow productivity development in Finnish herds. It focuses on parity cycle specific trends in sow removal patterns, and especially on the role of litter performance (size and piglet survival) in sow removal. In addition, the generated models offer a tool for calculating sow removal risks in any period, which could be used in economic and other simulation models. The data used in the study pool information of sows starting the same parity cycle (1 through 8) over the enrollment period of July 1st, 2013 through June 30th, 2014 and followed until the end of the study period (December 31st, 2014), and their performance histories across their entire previous productive life. Out of 71,512 individual sow parity cycle observations from the first to the eighth, 15,128 ended up in removal. Average litter sizes exceeded 13 piglets born in total in all of the most recent farrowings. Yet, even larger litter sizes were favored by the implemented culling policies, as sows having medium and large early life litters had lower risks of removal compared to those with the smallest litters, particularly in younger animals. With regard to piglets born just prior to removal, the smallest litter sizes were associated with the greatest culling risk for sows of that particular parity. In addition, having more than one stillborn piglet in the first and second litter put the sow at higher risk of being removed in all but the last (sixth through eighth) of the studied parity cycles. Investigation of removal patterns revealed a negative linear relationship between parity count and the mean days from farrowing to removal. More specifically, the median (mean) times to removal varied across the parity cycles from 62 (72) in the first to 34 days in both the seventh and eighth (47 and 42, respectively). Moreover, one in every six sows was removed within the first and second parity cycle. The findings especially in the earliest cycles may be a reflection of removal decisions not made according to any clear and pre-determined policy, or of biological issues that prevent farmers from firmly adhering to their policy. Quantitative performance should be linked to overall system functionality and profitability while taking animal welfare into consideration in identifying opportunities to improve herd parity structure and future farm success.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2018.08.010DOI Listing
November 2018

Sick and grumpy: Changes in social behaviour after a controlled immune stimulation in group-housed gilts.

Physiol Behav 2019 01 2;198:76-83. Epub 2018 Oct 2.

Animal Welfare Research Group, Department of Production Animal Clinical Science, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Oslo, Norway.

Poor health is associated with an increased risk of tail biting outbreaks in pigs. We propose that this is because illness changes social dynamics either by changing the behaviour of the sick pig towards its penmates, the behaviour of the healthy penmates towards the sick pig, or both. We tested the effect of immune stimulation (lipopolysaccharide (LPS) injection: O111:B4; 1.5 μg kg IV) on social behaviour in gilts housed in triplets in a cross-over experiment. Each pen was subjected to the control treatment (all three pigs injected with saline) and then LPS treatment (one pig injected with LPS, two injected with saline), or vice versa. LPS injected pigs had a shift in social motivation and performed more tail- and ear- directed behaviour than saline pigs two days after injection. They seemed to fit the description of 'sick and grumpy'. This change was seen about 40 h after the signs of acute illness dissipated and was not accompanied by a similar increase in activity. We discuss possible mechanisms for this behavioural change in light of changes in neurotransmitter levels at three days after LPS injection described in a previous experiment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.09.018DOI Listing
January 2019

The effect of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on inflammatory markers in blood and brain and on behavior in individually-housed pigs.

Physiol Behav 2018 10 2;195:98-111. Epub 2018 Aug 2.

Animal Welfare Research Group, Department of Production Animal Clinical Science, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), Oslo, Norway.

Most of us have experienced deterioration of mood while ill. In humans, immune activation is associated with lethargy and social withdrawal, irritability and aggression; changes in social motivation could, in theory, lead to less functional interactions. This might also be the case for animals housed in close confinement. Tail biting in pigs is an example of damaging social behavior, and sickness is thought to be a risk factor for tail biting outbreaks. One possible mechanism whereby sickness may influence behavior is through cytokines. To identify possible mediators between immune activation and behavioral change, we injected 16 gilts with lipopolysaccharide (LPS; O111:B4; 1.5 μg kg IV through a permanent catheter). In LPS-treated pigs, a significant increase in cortisol, TNF-α, IL-1 receptor antagonist, IL-6, and IL-8 was observed alongside decreased activity within the first 6 h after the injection. CRP was elevated at 12 and 24 h after injection, and food intake was reduced for the first 24 h after injection. Three days post-injection, LPS pigs had lower levels of noradrenaline in their hypothalamus, hippocampus and frontal cortex compared to saline-injected pigs. Pigs injected with LPS also had higher levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IFN-γ in their frontal cortex compared to saline-injected pigs. Thus, a low dose of LPS can induce changes in brain cytokine levels and neurotransmitter levels that persist after inflammatory and stress markers in the periphery have returned to baseline levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2018.07.013DOI Listing
October 2018

Development of an Extended ASM3 Model for Predicting the Nitrous Oxide Emissions in a Full-Scale Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Environ Sci Technol 2018 05 1;52(10):5803-5811. Epub 2018 May 1.

Department of Built Environment , Aalto University , P.O. Box 15200, FI-00076 Aalto , Finland.

An Activated Sludge Model #3 (ASM3) based, pseudomechanistic model describing nitrous oxide (NO) production was created in this study to provide more insight into the dynamics of NO production, consumption, and emissions at a full-scale wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). NO emissions at the studied WWTP are monitored throughout the plant with a Fourier transform infrared analyzer, while the developed model encountered NO production in the biological reactors via both ammonia oxidizing bacteria (AOB) nitrification and heterotrophic denitrifiers. Additionally, the stripping of NO was included by applying a K a-based approach that has not been widely used before. The objective was to extend the existing ASM3-based model of the plant and assess how well the full-scale emissions could be predicted with the selected model. The validity and applicability of the model were tested by comparing the simulation results with the comprehensive online data. The results show that the ASM3-based model can be successfully extended and applied to modeling NO production and emissions at a full-scale WWTP. These results demonstrate that the biological reactor can explain most of the NO emissions at the plant, but a significant proportion of the liquid-phase NO is further transferred during the process.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b00386DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6150676PMC
May 2018

Effect of a live attenuated vaccine against Lawsonia intracellularis in weaned and finishing pig settings in Finland.

Acta Vet Scand 2018 Mar 23;60(1):18. Epub 2018 Mar 23.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920, Saarentaus, Finland.

Background: The intracellular bacterium Lawsonia intracellularis is an important pathogen in modern swine production. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a live attenuated L. intracellularis vaccine (Enterisol Ileitis) on the health and production parameters of weaned and finishing pigs in a commercial Finnish 850-sow farm with diagnosed L. intracellularis infection. The herd was free from enzootic pneumonia, swine dysentery, progressive atrophic rhinitis, sarcoptic mange and salmonellosis. Four weekly groups of approximately 500 piglets were included in the study for a total of approximately 2000 piglets. Half of these piglets were vaccinated at 3 weeks of age and the other half served as controls. The study piglets were ear-tagged with individual numbers and colour-coded and were individually weighed at weaning (4 weeks), delivery to the finishing farm (12-14 weeks) and at slaughter. Mortality, symptoms of diseases and medications of the study piglets were registered in the nursery and finishing unit. Feed conversion rate was calculated for the finishing period and lean meat percentage was measured at slaughter.

Results: Vaccinated piglets had a higher live weight than unvaccinated piglets at delivery to the finishing unit (+ 1.18 kg, P = 0.002) and at slaughter (+ 3.57 kg, P < 0.001). The daily weight gain of vaccinated piglets was better than unvaccinated piglets in the nursery (+ 14.8 g/d, P = 0.013) and in the finishing unit (+ 30.9 g/d, P < 0.001). Vaccination had no effect on feed conversion rate or lean meat percentage (P = 0.102). Altogether, 3.9 and 4.6% of the pigs were medicated for different reasons in the vaccinated and control groups, respectively. The return on investment for the vaccination was calculated to be 0.41.

Conclusions: Immunisation of piglets with a live attenuated L. intracellularis vaccine resulted in higher meat yield in pig production via significantly higher live weight and average daily weight gain in a Finnish specific pathogen-free setting.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13028-018-0374-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5865362PMC
March 2018

Effect of oral KETOPROFEN treatment in acute respiratory disease outbreaks in finishing pigs.

Porcine Health Manag 2018 6;4. Epub 2018 Mar 6.

1Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920 Saarentaus, FI Finland.

Background: Infection with respiratory pathogens can influence production as well as animal welfare. There is an economical and ethical need to treat pigs that suffer from respiratory diseases. Our aim was the evaluation of the possible effects of oral NSAID medication given in feed in acute outbreaks of respiratory disease in finishing pigs. The short- and long-term impact of NSAID dosing on clinical signs, daily weight gain, blood parameters and behaviour of growing pigs in herds with acute respiratory infections were evaluated. Four finishing pig farms suffering from acute outbreaks of respiratory disease were visited thrice after outbreak onset (DAY 0, DAY 3 and DAY 30). Pigs with the most severe clinical signs ( = 160) were selected as representative pigs for the herd condition. These pigs were blood sampled, weighed, evaluated clinically and their behaviour was observed. After the first visit, half of the pens (five pigs per pen in four pens totalling 20 representative pigs per herd, altogether 80 pigs in four herds) were treated with oral ketoprofen (target dose 3 mg/kg) mixed in feed for three days and the other half (80 pigs) with a placebo. In three of the herds, some pigs were treated also with antimicrobials, and in one herd the only pharmaceutical treatment was ketoprofen or placebo.

Results: Compared to the placebo treatment, dosing of ketoprofen reduced sickness behaviour and lowered the rectal temperature of the pigs. Clinical signs, feed intake or blood parameters were not different between the treatment groups. Ketoprofen treatment was associated with somewhat reduced weight gain over the 30-day follow-up period. Concentration analysis of the - and -enantiomers of ketoprofen in serum samples collected on DAY 3 indicated successful oral drug administration.

Conclusions: Ketoprofen mainly influenced the behaviour of the pigs, while it had no effect on recovery from respiratory clinical signs. However, the medication may have been started after the most severe clinical phase of the respiratory disease was over, and this delay might complicate the evaluation of treatment effects. Possible negative impact of ketoprofen on production parameters requires further evaluation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-018-0081-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5838944PMC
March 2018

Modeling the Costs of Postpartum Dysgalactia Syndrome and Locomotory Disorders on Sow Productivity and Replacement.

Front Vet Sci 2017 30;4:181. Epub 2017 Oct 30.

Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland.

Postpartum dysgalactia syndrome (PPDS) and locomotory disorders are common health problems in sows. Previous research suggests that they can cause substantial losses, reduce sow welfare, and result in premature removal of the sow from the herd. However, economic consequences of PPDS and locomotory disorders have not been investigated thoroughly. The goal of this study was to examine economic losses caused by PPDS and locomotory disorders and their impacts on sow longevity. A stochastic dynamic programming model, which maximizes return on sow space unit and assesses sow replacement under several scenarios, was developed. The state variables were litter size, parity number, and sow's health status. The model describes changes in the production parameters such as the number of piglets born and piglet mortality. Herd data originating from commercial sow herds and from a research farm were used to parameterize the model. Sow longevity, health, and economic results are related to each other. Eliminating the risk of PPDS from the model increased the value of sow space unit by €279 when compared to the baseline scenario. Eliminating the risk of locomotory disorders increased value by €110. Results suggest that these estimates correspond to about €29.1 and €11.5 in economic costs per housed sow during her lifetime. The estimated magnitude of losses was €300-€470 per affected sow for PPDS and €290-€330 per affected sow for locomotory disorders. However, realistically speaking, not all of these costs are avoidable. Due to premature replacement associated with these two disorders, the average number of litters that the sow would deliver during her lifetime is decreased by about 0.1-0.4 litters depending on the scenario. We also observed that the optimal lifetime of a sow is not a fixed number, but it depends on her productivity level as well as health status. In general, a healthy sow could stay in the herd until she has produced 6-10 litters. Research is needed to understand the structures and interactions underlying health impairments, performance, replacement policies, and farm economics, and to provide pork producers with management recommendations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2017.00181DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5671644PMC
October 2017

Etiology of acute respiratory disease in fattening pigs in Finland.

Porcine Health Manag 2017 23;3:19. Epub 2017 Aug 23.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920 Saarentaus, Finland.

Background: The objective of our study was to clinically and etiologically investigate acute outbreaks of respiratory disease in Finland. Our study also aimed to evaluate the clinical use of various methods in diagnosing respiratory infections under field conditions and to describe the antimicrobial resistance profile of the main bacterial pathogen(s) found during the study.

Methods: A total of 20 case herds having finishing pigs showing acute respiratory symptoms and eight control herds showing no clinical signs suggesting of respiratory problems were enrolled in the study. Researchers visited each herd twice, examining and bleeding 20 pigs per herd. In addition, nasal swab samples were taken from 20 pigs and three pigs per case herd were necropsied during the first visit. Serology was used to detect (APP), swine influenza virus (SIV), porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus (PRRSV), porcine respiratory coronavirus (PRCV) and antibodies. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to investigate the presence of porcine circovirus type 2 (PCV2) in serum and SIV in the nasal and lung samples. Pathology and bacteriology, including antimicrobial resistance determination, were performed on lung samples obtained from the field necropsies.

Results: According to the pathology and bacteriology of the lung samples, APP and were the main causes of respiratory outbreaks in 14 and three herds respectively, while the clinical signs in three other herds had a miscellaneous etiology. SIV, APP and PCV2 caused concurrent infections in certain herds but they were detected serologically or with PCR also in control herds, suggesting possible subclinical infections. APP was isolated from 16 (80%) case herds. Marked resistance was observed against tetracycline for APP, some resistance was detected against trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, ampicillin and penicillin, and no resistance against florfenicol, enrofloxacin, tulathromycin or tiamulin was found. Serology, even from paired serum samples, gave inconclusive results for acute APP infection diagnosis.

Conclusions: APP was the most common cause for acute respiratory outbreaks in our study. SIV, , PCV2 and certain opportunistic bacteria were also detected during the outbreaks; however, viral pathogens appeared less important than bacteria. Necropsies supplemented with microbiology were the most efficient diagnostic methods in characterizing the studied outbreaks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-017-0065-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5568250PMC
August 2017

Effect of fenbendazole in water on pigs infected with Ascaris suum in finishing pigs under field conditions.

Vet Parasitol 2017 Apr 6;237:1-7. Epub 2017 Mar 6.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, 04920, Saarentaus, Finland.

The husbandry of pigs for meat production is a constantly developing industry. Most studies on the effects of Ascaris suum infection in pigs and its prevention with anthelmintics are over a decade old. We examined the effect of 2.5mg fenbendazole per kg bodyweight administered in drinking water for two consecutive days on A. suum infection 1 and 6 weeks after pigs arrived to fattening units. We hypothesised that the treatment would reduce the presence of A. suum-infections, improve the average daily weight gain of pigs, reduce the percentage of liver rejections in pens by 50% and increase the lean meat percentage at slaughter by 1%. The study included a placebo group (427 pigs) and a treatment group (420 pigs) spanning four different farms previously reporting ≥15% liver rejection. The treatment was given for 2 consecutive days 1 and 6 weeks after the pigs arrived to the fattening unit. Faecal samples were collected during weeks 1, 6 and 12 from all pigs and examined for A. suum eggs. Blood was collected during weeks 1 and 12 from a subgroup of the pigs and examined for anti-A. suum antibodies and clinical blood parameters. Data on liver rejection and lean meat percentage were collected post-mortem. The proportion of Ascaris seropositive pigs changed from 8.6% to 22.2% and 20.3% to 16.3% in the placebo and treatment group respectively. Fenbendazole reduced the presence of A. suum eggs in faeces the percentage of liver rejections by 69.8%. The treatment did not affect daily weight gain or lean meat percentage. Pigs with A. suum eggs in faeces at week 6 had a lower average daily weight gain of 61.8g/day compared with pigs without parasite eggs. Fenbendazole treatment may be a useful option for farms struggling with persistent A. suum problems and demonstrate a beneficial effect on the weight gain of the animals shedding eggs in faeces and result in fewer condemned livers at slaughter.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2017.03.005DOI Listing
April 2017

The effects of amoxicillin treatment of newborn piglets on the prevalence of hernias and abscesses, growth and ampicillin resistance of intestinal coliform bacteria in weaned pigs.

PLoS One 2017 15;12(2):e0172150. Epub 2017 Feb 15.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Paroninkuja 20, Saarentaus, Finland.

This study investigated the effects of a single amoxicillin treatment of newborn piglets on the prevalence of hernias and abscesses until the age of nine weeks. We also studied whether the treatment was associated with growth and mortality, the need for treatment of other diseases, the proportions of ampicillin resistant coliforms and antimicrobial resistance patterns of intestinal Escherichia coli (E. coli). A total of 7156 piglets, from approximately 480 litters, were divided into two treatment groups: ANT (N = 3661) and CON (N = 3495), where piglets were treated with or without a single intramuscular injection of 75 mg amoxicillin one day after birth, respectively. The umbilical and inguinal areas of weaned pigs were palpated at four and nine weeks of age. At the same time, altogether 124 pigs with hernias or abscesses and 820 non-defective pigs from three pens per batch were weighed individually. Mortality and the need to treat piglets for other diseases were recorded. Piglet faecal samples were collected from three areas of the floors of each pen at four weeks of age. The prevalence of umbilical hernias or abscesses did not differ between the groups at four weeks of age, but it was higher in the CON group than in the ANT group at nine weeks of age (2.3% vs. 0.7%, P < 0.05). Numbers of inguinal hernias and abscesses did not differ between the groups at four or nine weeks of age. The ANT group, when it compared with the CON group, increased the weight gain between four and nine weeks of age (LS means ± SE; 497.5 g/d ± 5.0 vs. 475.3 g/d ± 4.9, P < 0.01), and decreased piglet mortality (19.5% ± 1.0 vs. 6.9% ± 1.0, P < 0.05) and the need to treat the piglets for leg problems (3.4% ± 0.3 vs. 1.9% ± 0.3%, P < 0.01) but not for other diseases by the age of four weeks. The proportion of ampicillin resistant intestinal coliform bacteria and the resistance patterns of the E. coli isolates were not different between the ANT and CON groups. In conclusion, our results showed that the amoxicillin treatment of new-born piglets produced statistically significant effect in some of the parameters studied. However, as these effects were only minor, we did not find grounds to recommend preventive antibiotic treatment. Further, continuous antimicrobial treatment of newborn piglets could negatively influence the development of the normal microbiota of the piglet and promote selection of antimicrobial resistance genes in herds. Therefore we suggest rejection of the use of routine administration of antimicrobial agents at birth.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172150PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5310895PMC
August 2017

How well is microlitter purified from wastewater? - A detailed study on the stepwise removal of microlitter in a tertiary level wastewater treatment plant.

Water Res 2017 Feb 16;109:164-172. Epub 2016 Nov 16.

University of Eastern Finland Sib Labs, PO Box 1627, FI-70211, Kuopio, Finland.

Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) can offer a solution to reduce the point source input of microlitter and microplastics into the environment. To evaluate the contributing processes for microlitter removal, the removal of microlitter from wastewater during different treatment steps of mechanical, chemical and biological treatment (activated sludge) and biologically active filter (BAF) in a large (population equivalent 800 000) advanced WWTP was examined. Most of the microlitter was removed already during the pre-treatment and activated sludge treatment further decreased the microlitter concentration. The overall retention capacity of studied WWTP was over 99% and was achieved after secondary treatment. However, despite of the high removal performance, even an advanced WWTP may constitute a considerable source of microlitter and microplastics into the aquatic environment given the large volumes of effluent discharged constantly. The microlitter content of excess sludge, dried sludge and reject water were also examined. According to the balance analyses, approximately 20% of the microlitter removed from the process is recycled back with the reject water, whereas 80% of the microlitter is contained in the dried sludge. The study also looked at easy microlitter sampling protocol with automated composite samplers for possible future monitoring purposes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.watres.2016.11.046DOI Listing
February 2017

Current trends in Finnish drug abuse: Wastewater based epidemiology combined with other national indicators.

Sci Total Environ 2016 Oct 19;568:864-874. Epub 2016 Jun 19.

National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Forensic Toxicology, Mannerheimintie 166, FI-00300 Helsinki, Finland. Electronic address:

No single measure is able to provide a complete picture of population- or community-level drug abuse and its current trends. Therefore, a multi-indicator approach is needed. The aim of this study was to combine wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) with data from other national indicators, namely driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) statistics, drug seizures, and drug use surveys. Furthermore, drug market size estimates and a comparison of confiscated drugs to drugs actually consumed by users were performed using the WBE approach. Samples for wastewater analysis were collected during one-week sampling periods in 2012, 2014 and 2015, with a maximum of 14 cities participating. The samples were analysed with a validated ultra-high-performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometric (UHPLC-MS/MS) methodology for various common drugs of abuse. The results were then compared with data from other national indicators available. Joint interpretation of the data shows that the use of amphetamine and MDMA has increased in Finland from 2012 to 2014. A similar trend was also observed for cocaine, although its use remains at a very low level compared to many other European countries. Heroin was practically absent from the Finnish drug market during the study period. The retail market for the most common stimulant drugs were estimated to have been worth EUR 70 million for amphetamine and around EUR 10 million for both methamphetamine and cocaine, in 2014 in Finland.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.06.060DOI Listing
October 2016

Nitrous Oxide Production at a Fully Covered Wastewater Treatment Plant: Results of a Long-Term Online Monitoring Campaign.

Environ Sci Technol 2016 06 24;50(11):5547-54. Epub 2016 May 24.

Department of Teleinformatics Engineering, Federal University of Ceará , Fortalzea, Ceará, 60455-760 Brazil.

The nitrous oxide emissions of the Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant were measured in a 12 month online monitoring campaign. The measurements, which were conducted with a continuous gas analyzer, covered all of the unit operations of the advanced wastewater-treatment process. The relation between the nitrous oxide emissions and certain process parameters, such as the wastewater temperature, influent biological oxygen demand, and ammonium nitrogen load, was investigated by applying online data obtained from the process-control system at 1 min intervals. Although seasonal variations in the measured nitrous oxide emissions were remarkable, the measurement data indicated no clear relationship between these emissions and seasonal changes in the wastewater temperature. The diurnal variations of the nitrous oxide emissions did, however, strongly correlate with the alternation of the influent biological oxygen demand and ammonium nitrogen load to the aerated zones of the activated sludge process. Overall, the annual nitrous oxide emissions of 168 g/PE/year and the emission factor of 1.9% of the influent nitrogen load are in the high range of values reported in the literature but in very good agreement with the results of other long-term online monitoring campaigns implemented at full-scale wastewater-treatment plants.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.5b04466DOI Listing
June 2016

Managing undocked pigs - on-farm prevention of tail biting and attitudes towards tail biting and docking.

Porcine Health Manag 2016 1;2. Epub 2016 Feb 1.

Research Centre for Animal Welfare, Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, PO Box 57, 00014 Helsinki, Finland.

Background: Tail biting is a common and serious welfare problem in pig production, causing large economical losses. Tail docking is performed routinely in most EU countries to reduce the tail biting risk. However, tail docking is painful, and does not prevent tail biting totally. The risk factors behind tail docking are multifactorial and most analyses are based on studies using biological or epidemiological approaches. There is very little information available on how producers deal with tail biting on-farm. There are also no studies on the attitude of producers towards tail docking and tail biting in systems with long-tailed pigs. We aimed to study how farmers rate the efficiency of different measures for preventing and intervening with tail biting, when tail docking is not allowed. Furthermore, we investigated the attitudes of Finnish farmers to tail docking and tail biting.

Results: Respondents scored feeding-related issues to be most important for prevention of tail biting, identifying and removing the biting pig as most important intervention measures, and straw as the most important manipulable material when preventing tail biting. Tail biting was not perceived as a very serious problem by over 70 % of the respondents, even though docking is not allowed, and was reported to occur close to a level which was also considered acceptable by the respondents. Most respondents did not think it is probable they would raise tail docked pigs if it were possible, but about 21 % probably would.

Conclusions: In comparison with other authors' findings, the ranking of importance of risk factors for tail biting differs between scientists and farmers, and between farmers in different cultures of pig production. In addition, the attitude towards tail biting and tail docking appears to be very different in producers with different experiences of tail docking. These results indicate that a scientist-farmer dialogue, as well as international communication is important when trying to reduce the risk of tail biting, and subsequently the need for tail docking.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40813-016-0020-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5382372PMC
February 2016

Do wastewater treatment plants act as a potential point source of microplastics? Preliminary study in the coastal Gulf of Finland, Baltic Sea.

Water Sci Technol 2015 ;72(9):1495-504

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Aalto University, PO Box 15200, FI-00076, AALTO, Finland E-mail:

This study on the removal of microplastics during different wastewater treatment unit processes was carried out at Viikinmäki wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The amount of microplastics in the influent was high, but it decreased significantly during the treatment process. The major part of the fibres were removed already in primary sedimentation whereas synthetic particles settled mostly in secondary sedimentation. Biological filtration further improved the removal. A proportion of the microplastic load also passed the treatment and was found in the effluent, entering the receiving water body. After the treatment process, an average of 4.9 (±1.4) fibres and 8.6 (±2.5) particles were found per litre of wastewater. The total textile fibre concentration in the samples collected from the surface waters in the Helsinki archipelago varied between 0.01 and 0.65 fibres per litre, while the synthetic particle concentration varied between 0.5 and 9.4 particles per litre. The average fibre concentration was 25 times higher and the particle concentration was three times higher in the effluent compared to the receiving body of water. This indicates that WWTPs may operate as a route for microplastics entering the sea.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2166/wst.2015.360DOI Listing
February 2016

Strategic use of anti-GnRH vaccine allowing selection of breeding boars without adverse effects on reproductive or production performances.

Theriogenology 2016 Feb 21;85(3):476-82. Epub 2015 Sep 21.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Helsinki, Saarentaus, Finland.

Boar stations raise only entire male pigs for selection as reproductive boars, but the majority of them will fail the selection process, ending at slaughter with a high risk of boar tainted meat. The aim of this study was to investigate whether a single dose of Improvac given to 16-week old boars had a negative effect on their subsequent sperm numbers and motility in 16 artificial insemination boars. We also aimed to generate more knowledge on incidence of boar taint at slaughter among Finnish pigs, compare production performances as average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, and carcass and meat quality (lean meat percentage, back fat, pH, color, androstenone, and skatole) of immunocastrated boars (n = 248) with those of entire boars (n = 268). Moreover, we aimed also to explore whether a fat biopsy taken at 16 weeks of age could already reveal the presence of boar taint compounds and be predictive of boar taint development at slaughter age. We found that 32% of entire boars (Figen Landrace, Figen Large White, and their crossbreed) slaughtered at an age of 25 weeks presented levels of androstenone and/or skatole above the threshold for boar taint in their meat. These boars (control) had higher androstenone and skatole levels in the back fat samples at slaughter (0.77 ± 0.55 and 0.09 ± 0.06 μg/g, respectively, mean ± standard deviation) than those in the immuno group (0.20 ± 0.25 and 0.06 ± 0.03 μg/g, respectively, P < 0.001). A single dose of anti-GnRH vaccine, given at 16 weeks of age, did not affect future sperm numbers and motility of boars selected for artificial insemination. We found no difference in the levels of testosterone, anti-GnRH antibodies titers, testicle morphology, and sperm numbers and motility between the boars vaccinated once, at 16 weeks of age, with anti-GnRH vaccine and the control boars (no vaccination). There were no differences in average daily gain, feed conversion ratio, lean meat percentage, and back fat between the immunocastrated boars and entire boars. Meat from immunocastrated boars had a higher pH and better color than meat from entire boars (P < 0.001), suggesting slightly improved meat quality.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.theriogenology.2015.09.027DOI Listing
February 2016

Save the pig tail.

Porcine Health Manag 2015 16;1. Epub 2015 Apr 16.

Department of Production Animal Medicine, University of Helsinki, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Paroninkuja 20, 04920 Saarentaus, Finland.

Tail biting is a common problem in modern pig production and has a negative impact on both animal welfare and economic result of the farm. Tail biting risk is increased by management and housing practices that fail to meet the basic needs of pigs. Tail docking is commonly used to reduce the risk of tail biting, but tail docking in itself is a welfare problem, as it causes pain to the pigs, and facilitates suboptimal production methods from a welfare point-of-view. When evaluating the cost and benefit of tail docking, it is important to consider negative impacts of both tail docking and tail biting. It is also essential to realize that even though 100% of the pigs are normally docked, only a minority will end up bitten, even in the worst case. In addition, data suggests that tail biting can be managed to an acceptable level even without tail docking, by correcting the production system to better meet the basic needs of the pigs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/2055-5660-1-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5375127PMC
April 2015

Evidence for a link between tail biting and central monoamine metabolism in pigs (Sus scrofa domestica).

Physiol Behav 2015 May 26;143:151-7. Epub 2015 Feb 26.

Division of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapy, Faculty of Pharmacy, P.O. Box 56, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland.

Tail biting in pigs is a major welfare problem within the swine industry. Even though there is plenty of information on housing and management-related risk factors, the biological bases of this behavioral problem are poorly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate a possible link between tail biting, based on behavioral recordings of pigs during an ongoing outbreak, and certain neurotransmitters in different brain regions of these pigs. We used a total of 33 pigs at a farm with a long-standing problem of tail biting. Three equally big behavioral phenotypic groups, balanced for gender and age were selected, the data thus consisting of 11 trios of pigs. Two of the pigs in each trio originated from the same pen: one tail biter (TB) and one tail biting victim (V). A control (C) pig was selected from a pen without significant tail biting in the same farm room. We found an effect of tail biting behavioral phenotype on the metabolism of serotonin and dopamine, with a tendency for a higher 5-HIAA level in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) of TB compared to the other groups, while V pigs showed changes in both serotonin and dopamine metabolism in the striatum (ST) and limbic cortex (LC). Trp:BCAA and Trp:LNAA correlated positively with serotonin and 5-HIAA in the PFC, but only in TB pigs. Furthermore, in both ST and LC, several of the neurotransmitters and their metabolites correlated positively with the frequency of bites received by the pig. This is the first study indicating a link between brain neurotransmission and tail biting behavior in pigs with TB pigs showing a tendency for increased PFC serotonin metabolism and V pigs showing several changes in central dopamine and serotonin metabolism in their ST and LC, possibly due to the acute stress caused by being bitten.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.02.049DOI Listing
May 2015