Background: The objectives of this study were to create an objective measurement method of joint angles for knee, hock, front and rear pasterns and a rear stance position in swine using digital imaging technology and to assess the repeatability of the objective measurement process.
Methods and Findings: Forty-five multiparous sows (average parity 6.7 ± 2.5; parity range 5 to 14) from two commercial farms (n=21 farm 1 and n=24 farm 2) were used. Sows were moved to a pen where digital images of the profile and rear stance were captured. On average, 5.2 (± 2.6) profile and 2.6 (± 1.0) rear stance high quality images were used per sow. A joint angle measuring system was devised to collect angle measurements on the four feet and leg joints previously mentioned and the rear stance. Joint measurements were analyzed using repeated measure mixed model methods, including farm and parity (as 5, 6, and 7+) as fixed effects. Intraclass correlation coefficients were calculated to evaluate process repeatability. Joint angle measurement repeatability ranged from 0.63 to 0.82. Lowest and highest repeatabilities were observed for the front pastern and hock angle measurements, respectively. No significant farm or parity differences were observed for joint angles measured except for the knee angle between farms (P<0.05) and the hock angle between sows’ parities 5 and 6 and parity 7+ (P<0.05).
Conclusions: Feet and leg conformation evaluation using digital images could be successfully used as an objective tool to aide in selection of replacement gilts. This could have a beneficial impact on sow longevity and farm productivity and profitability.