Assessing the prevalence and effect of reusing needles on piglet welfare in the UK
AWF Research Fund
Area of study
Investigator(s): Kathryn Owen
Supervisor(s): Dr Troy Gibson, Dr Nicola Blackie
The reuse of needles in the farming industry is a common occurrence but information on how widespread this practice is in the UK pig sector during routine injection of piglets with iron supplements is currently unknown.
In this project, UK pig farmers were asked to complete a short questionnaire on how they administer iron injections to piglets. The results showed that iron injections are common in indoor herds, and many are injected earlier than The Pig Site recommendation of 3-5 days of age. Most pig farmers use a 21G 5/8 needle, and the needle is changed at least every three litters. Furthermore, there seems to be little consideration for hygiene when reusing a needle.
These results were then used to design a short laboratory project aimed to assess how repeated needle use affects the force required to push a needle into and out of piglet skin. It was found that repeated needle use using a 21G needle increases the compressive force on pig tissue and is detectable from 50 injections onwards.
This study has welfare implications for the pig farming sector and for other animals. Future work might consider repeat experiments with piglet skin and continue microscopy analysis e.g. visualising needle damage by electron microscopy.