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Donald C Lay, Jr (Don)

Research Leader
Dr. Donald C. Lay, Jr.
Research Leader
Agricultural Research Service
Livestock Behavior Research Unit
West Lafayette, IN

Dr. Lay was raised in central Virginia, on a traditional family farm, consisting of cattle, swine, and horses. Dr. Donald C. Lay Jr. received a B.S. degree in Animal Science from Virginia Tech in 1985. To pursue studies in ethology, he went to Texas A & M earning his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Animal Science in 1990 and 1995, respectively. While at Texas A & M, his research efforts concentrated on determining the relative painfulness of freeze and hot-iron branding in cattle and on determining what effects stress may have on the developing fetus.

Upon graduation, Dr. Lay accepted a position at Iowa State University as Assistant Professor specializing in Behavioral Physiology. There, he taught two courses, Companion Animal Science, and Domestic Animal Behavior and Well-Being. He is co-author of the textbook "Animal Well-Being: Stress Physiology, Applied Ethology, and Environmental Design". He is on the editorial board for the Environment and Behavior, and the Physiology and Endocrinology sections of the Journal of Animal Science, Domestic Animal Endocrinology, Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science and for Applied Animal Behaviour Science. Dr. Lay has chaired the Mid-west section ASAS, Environment and Behavior committee, the national ASAS Animal Behavior and Well-Being section, as well as the NCR-131, Animal Care and Behavior committee. His reputation as an ethologist led to him being appointed to chair the first Animal Behavior, Housing, & Well-Being section at the Mid-West Animal Science meetings held in March, 2001.

His peers have recognized his excellent performance in research as evidenced by his invitation to speak at: 1) the International Conference on the Biology of Animal Stress; 2) the European Assoc. for Animal Production meeting in Budapest; 3) 8 Universities; 4) 4 American Society of Animal Science meetings and as the Key Note speaker at the 2005 Stress and Behavior conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.

In 2000 he won the Iowa State University College of Agriculture Early Achievement in Teaching Award and in 2003 he won the Area Early Career Research Scientist of the Year award for ARS. Dr. Lay has authored and co-authored 1 text book, 2 book chapters, 60 articles of which approximately 40 are peer reviewed, and 67 abstracts. In addition he currently has one patent pending: Ovarian Regression and Recrudescence in the Hen Using Melengestrol Acetate, 0174.03. D.C. Lay Jr. and M. E. Wilson. 2005.

Dr. Lay is the Research Leader of the USDA-ARS Livestock Behavior Research Unit in West Lafayette, IN and the Location Coordinator for the ARS West Lafayette location which includes research units on soil erosion and crop and pest management. The majority of his time is spent conducting research in applied ethology. His interests are in optimizing the well-being of swine, examining the mechanisms of maternal behavior in swine, investigating alternative housing and management systems for swine production, and elucidating the effects of prenatal stress.

Selected Publications

  1. Lay Jr., D.C. and M. E. Wilson. 2005. Patent Pending: Ovarian Regression and Recrudescence in the Hen Using Melengestrol Acetate, 0174.03, Patent Pending.
  2. Toscano, M.J., and D.C. Lay Jr. 2005. Parsing the characteristics of a simulated udder to determine relative attractiveness to piglets in the 72 h following parturition. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 92:283-291.
  3. Willard, S.T., D.C. Lay Jr., T. Friend, D. Neuendorff, and R. Randel. 2005. Plasma progesterone response following ACTH administration during mid-gestation in the pregnant Brahman heifer. Therio. 63:1061-1069.
  4. Koch, J.M., J.S. Moritz, D.C. Lay Jr., and M.E. Wilson. 2005. Melengestrol Acetate in Experimental Diets as an Effective alternative to induce a decline in egg production and reversible regression of the reproductive tract in laying hens 1. Determining an effective concentration of melengestrol acetate. Poult. Sci. 84:1750-1756.
  5. Koch, J.M., J.S. Moritz, D.L. Smith, D.C. Lay Jr., and M.E. Wilson. 2005. Melengestrol acetate as an effective alternative to induce a decline in egg production and reversible regression of the reproductive tract in laying hens II. Effects on post-molt egg quality. Poult. Sci. 84:1757-1762.
  6. Toscano, M.J., T.J. Stabel, D.C. Lay Jr., S.D. Bearson, and B.L. Bearson. 2005. Cultivation of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in a norepinephrine-containing medium alters in vivo tissue prevalence in swine. J. Exp. Anim. Sci. 43(4):329-338.
  7. Sorrells, A.D., S.D. Eicher, K.A. Scott, M.J. Harris, E.A. Pajor, D.C. Lay Jr., and B.T. Richert. 2006. Post-natal behavioral and physiological responses of piglets from gilts housed individually or in groups during gestation. J. Anim. Sci. 84:757-766.
  8. Moulton, K., F. Lovell, E. Williams, P. Ryan, D.C. Lay Jr., D. Janse, and S. Willard. 2006. Use of glycerol as an optical clearing agent for enhancing photonic transference and detection of Salmonella typhimurium through porcine skin. J. Biomed. Optics. 11(5):054027-1 ??" 054027-8.
  9. Toscano, M.J., D.C. Lay, Jr., B.A. Craig, and E.A. Pajor. 2007. Assessing the adaptation of swine to 57 hours of feed deprivation in terms of behavioral and physiological responses. J. Anim. Sci. 85:441-451.
  10. Toscano, M.J., T.J. Stable, S.M.D. Bearson, B.L. Bearson, and D.C. Lay, Jr. 2007. Cultivation of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in a norepinephrine-containing medium alters in vivo tissue prevalence in swine. J. Exp. Anim. Sci. 43(4):329-338.
  11. Koch, J.M., D.C. Lay Jr., K.A. McMunn, J.S. Moritz, and M.E. Wilson. 2007. Motivation of hens to obtain feed during a molt induced by either feed withdrawal, wheat middlings or melegestrol acetate. Poult. Sci. 86:614-620.
  12. Koch, J.M., J.S. Mortiz, D.C. Lay Jr., and M.E. Wilson. 2007. Effects of melengestrol acetate as an alternative to induce molting in hens and on the expression of yolk proteins and turnover of oviductal epithelium. Anim. Repro. Sci., 102(2007):14-23.
  13. Kanaan, V.T., E.A. Pajor, D.C. Lay Jr., B.T. Richert, and J.P Garner. 2008. A note on the effects of co-mingling piglet litters on pre-weaning growth, injuries and responses to behavioural tests. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. 110 (3), p.386-391.
  14. Kranendonk, G., D.C. Lay Jr., S. Jarvis, M. Fillerup, C.G. VanReenen, H. Hopster, and V.M. Wiegant. 2008. Regular mixing of pregnant sows reduces their weight gain, but does not affect offspring body weight, behaviour or wound healing. Appl. Anim. Behav. Sci. Accepted with revision.
  15. Bearson, B. L., S. M. D. Bearson, J. J. Uthe, S. E. Dowd, J. Houghton, I. Lee, M. J. Toscano, and D. C. Lay Jr. 2008. Iron regulated genes of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium in response to norepinephrine and the requirement of fepDGC for norepinephrine-enhanced growth. Microbes and Infection. 10:807-806
  16. Lay, D. C. Jr., H. G. Kattesh, J. E. Cunnick, M. J. Daniels, K. A. McMunn, M. J. Toscano, and M. P. Roberts. 2008. Effects of prenatal stress on sow productivity and piglet response to weaning. J. Anim. Sci. 86:1316-1324.
  17. Schenck, E.L., McMunn, K.A., Rosenstein, D.S., Stroshine, R.L., Nielsen, B.D., Richert, B.T., Marchant-Forde, J.N. and Lay Jr., D.C. 2008. Exercising stall-housed gestating gilts: Effects on lameness, the musculo-skeletal system, production and behavior. J. Anim. Sci., 86:3166-3180
  18. Marchant-Forde, J.N., D.C. Lay Jr., R. Marchant-Forde, K.A. McMunn, and B.T. Richert. 2008. Effects of r-salbutamol on behavior and physiology of finishing pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 86:3110-3124
  19. Wilcox, C.S., N.M. Schutz, S.S. Donkin, D.C. Lay Jr., S.D. Eicher. 2008. Short Communication: Effect of temporary glycosuria on molasses consumption in Holstein calves. J. Dairy Sci. 91:1-4
  20. Marchant Forde, J.N., Lay Jr., D.C., McMunn, K.A., Cheng, H.W., Pajor E.A. and Marchant-Forde, R.M. 2009. Post-natal piglet husbandry practices and well-being: The effects of alternative techniques delivered separately. J. of Anim. Sci. 87:1479-1492.
  21. Moulton, K., P. Ryan, D.C. Lay Jr., and S. Willard. 2009. Photonic plasmid stability of transformed Salmonella typhimurium: A comparison of three unique plasmids. BMC Microbiol. 9:123-
  22. Moulton, K., P. Ryan, D.C. Lay Jr., and S. Willard. 2009. Postmortem photonic imaging of lux-modified Salmonella Typhimurium within the gastrointestinal tract of swine after oral inoculation in vivo. J. Anim. Sci. 87:2239-2244.

Hobbies and Interest

All animals both domestic and wild, biking, hiking, backpacking, diving, travel, and gardening.

Research Goal and Philosophy

The ultimate goal of my research program is to discover information that will allow for both optimum animal welfare and animal production. Society, animal researchers, and livestock producers are concerned about the stress to which animals are subjected, and they all wish to have this stress minimized. Yet we still struggle to define stress and interpret animal behavior in order to assess the state of our livestock. Decreasing animal stress and increasing animal welfare is a noble goal and a surmountable challenge. My research program is designed to meet this challenge and to produce a lasting contribution to both science and society.

Specific Research Projects

Five areas of expertise stand out as demonstrating the high degree of originality of Dr. Lay: 1) work on pre-natal stress, 2) maternal behavior of sows, 3) work on Salmonella infection in swine, 4) measuring subjective states using operant conditioning, and  5) developing a novel method of assessing stress using heart rate variability. 1)"Prenatal" stress is a phenomenon that occurs when a pregnant animal is stressed and this in some way alters the behavior and the physiology of her offspring.  Originally, this field used rodents as a model for humans.  Before Dr. Lay initiated work on pre-natal stress in cattle and then later in swine, only one paper had been published in livestock.  Recently, researchers in Germany, Holland, and Scotlandhave published or are conducting research on prenatal stress in swine. 2)Dr. Lay also demonstrated originality by initiating work on an exotic breed of swine, called Meishan.  Meishans have been reported to be excellent mothers, crushing few if any of their offspring.  Dr. Lay found that Meishans are more attentive toward their piglets and lie down in a rapid vertical fashion as compared to production sows.  These character differences can allow future work to progress in selecting sows that kill few of their own offspring.  With the same goal in mind of decreasing piglet crushing, Dr. Lay designed and tested a "simulated udder" to more effectively draw piglets to a safe area.  3)Dr. Lay's work on Salmonella infection in swine discovered that the bacteria can monitor their host using the host's hormones and optimize their infection. In addition, in a collaborative project a novel technique using biophotonics to detect the incidence of Salmonella was developed.  4)The difficulty of studying subjective states is that by definition they can not be quantified. Using operant conditioning techniques Dr. Lay turned feelings of hunger into quantifiable data in the form of number of pecks for hens and amount of weight pushed for swine in order to assess states of hunger.  5)Recently Dr. Lay obtained external funding (NRI-USDA, $375,000) to aid in developing a novel method to assess stress using heart rate variability.