Korenyi-Both, J., Vidaurre, J., Held, T. et al. 2022. Description of electroencephalographic data gathered using water-based medium-expansion foam as a depopulation method for nursery pigs. Scientific Reports 12(1), 16798.
The United States’ swine industry is under constant threat of foreign animal diseases, which may emerge without warning due to the globalized transportation networks moving people, animals, and products. Therefore, having disease control and elimination protocols in place prior to pathogen introduction is paramount for business continuity and economic recovery. During extraordinary circumstances, it may become necessary to depopulate large populations of animals, including swine, as a disease containment measure. Currently approved depopulation methods for swine present significant logistical challenges when scaled to large populations or performed in field conditions. In the United States, water-based foam is currently approved for poultry depopulation, and recent field studies demonstrate water-based foam is an effective depopulation alternative for swine. While effective, the speed at which water-based foam induces loss of consciousness prior to death, a major welfare consideration, has not been adequately investigated. In this study, 12 nursery pigs were terminated using water-based medium-expansion foam to quantify the time to induce loss of consciousness and ultimately brain death. Each pig was implanted with subdermal electrodes to capture electroencephalographic data, placed in a body sling, and suspended in a plastic bulk container that was subsequently filled with water-based foam. Electroencephalographic data was recorded for 15 min, during which the pigs remained immersed in the water-based foam. Conservatively, average (± SD) time to unconsciousness and brain death was 1 min, 53 s ± 36 s and 3 min, 3 s ± 56 s, respectively. The relatively rapid loss of consciousness compared to other methods limits the amount of distress and is overall a positive finding for the welfare of the pigs that might be depopulated with water-based foam. The findings of this study add additional evidence supporting the use of water-based medium-expansion foam for an emergency depopulation of swine.