The use of social network analysis to describe the effect of immune activation on group dynamics in pigs

Christina Veit*, Simone Foister, Anna Valros, Camilla Munsterhjelm, DA Sandercock, Andrew Janczak, Birgit Ranheim, Janicke Nordgreen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
126 Downloads (Pure)


The immune system can influence social motivation with potentially dire consequences for group-housed production animals, such as pigs. The aim of this study was to test the effect of a controlled immune activation in group-housed pigs, through an injection with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and an intervention with ketoprofen on centrality parameters at the individual level. In addition, we wanted to test the effect of time relative to the injection on general network parameters in order to get a better understanding of changes in social network structures at the group level. 52 female pigs (11-12 weeks) were allocated to four treatments, comprising two injections: ketoprofen-LPS (KL), ketoprofen-saline (KS), saline-LPS (SL) and saline-saline (SS). Social behaviour with a focus on damaging behaviour was observed continuously in 10 × 15 min bouts between 0800 am and 1700 pm 1 day before (baseline) and two subsequent days after injection. Activity was scan-sampled every 5 min for 6 h after the last injection in the pen. Saliva samples were taken for cortisol analysis at baseline and at 4, 24, 48, 72 h after the injections. A controlled immune activation affected centrality parameters for ear manipulation networks at the individual level. Lipopolysaccharide-injected pigs had a lower in-degree centrality, thus, received less interactions, 2 days after the challenge. Treatment effects on tail manipulation and fighting networks were not observed at the individual level. For networks of manipulation of other body parts, in-degree centrality was positively correlated with cortisol response at 4 h and lying behaviour in the first 6 h after the challenge in LPS-injected pigs. Thus, the stronger the pigs reacted to the LPS, the more interactions they received in the subsequent days. The time in relation to injection affected general network parameters for ear manipulation and fighting networks at the group level. For ear manipulation networks, in-degree centralisation was higher on the days following injection, thus, certain individuals in the pen received more interactions than the rest of the group compared to baseline. For fighting networks, betweenness decreased on the first day after injection compared to baseline, indicating that network connectivity increased after the challenge. Networks of tail manipulation and manipulation of other body parts did not change on the days after injection at the group level. Social network analysis is a method that can potentially provide important insights into the effects of sickness on social behaviour in group-housed pigs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100332
Issue number9
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Sept 2021


  • Cortisol
  • Lipopolysaccharide
  • Sickness behaviour
  • Social behaviour
  • Sus scrofa


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