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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SAFEGUARDING WELL-BEING OF FOOD PRODUCING ANIMALS

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

2010 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The long-term objective of this project is to optimize animal well-being and productivity. The approach is to focus on animal behavior, the outward expression of the cumulative effects of internal biological changes, to assess where challenges may exist and to develop alternative management strategies to solve these challenges. Over the next five years we will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1: Develop scientific measures of, identify husbandry and environmental challenges to, and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard well-being of swine. Objective 2: Develop scientific measures of, identify husbandry and environmental challenges to, and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard well-being of dairy cattle. Objective 3: Develop scientific measures of, identify husbandry and environmental challenges to, and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard well-being of poultry.


1b. Approach (from AD-416)
This project will examine animal agricultural practices, using behavior, physiology, immunology, and neurobiology, in order to maximize both animal well-being and productivity. Our approach will be to conduct multiple research projects on common production practices and evaluate how these practices affect livestock behavior, physiology, and physical condition, and we will work to assess the animals’ mental state. This unit is charged with the difficult task of conducting research for three animal species: dairy cattle, swine, and poultry. To accomplish this goal, unit scientists representing different backgrounds and areas of expertise will work together on multiple and varying projects to cover the main issues characteristic of the production system of each species. The broad view of our ultimate goal is that we wish to 1) discover and further refine objective measures of stress, and 2) evaluate and create appropriate management and housing methods. Each objective in this project is a step forward toward our ultimate goal. Our success will provide stakeholders with assurance that animal well-being is optimized and it will provide producers with technology to remain competitive.


3. Progress Report
All research in this project is progressing well. This project is in the early stages and already progressing ahead of schedule. Sow Lameness Research. We have 3 replicates of swine on dietary treatments aimed to increase cartilage health, and thus far, we have collected all the data on the first replication of animals with the other animals on target for completion. This is a 3 year study so results are not yet expected. Our work to decrease stomach ulcers in sows is also progressing as planned. We have conducted the laboratory studies and are moving to implement treatments on the farm. Heat Stress in Poultry and Cattle. We have completed one experiment on heat stress in poultry and data are being analyzed. We have also collected data for the heat stress study of dairy calves with both control and heat stress data collection complete. Heart Rate Variability as a Novel Measure of Stress. We have successfully identified the low and high frequencies of swine heart rate using pharmacological methods. This will be useful to many scientists in their assessment of stress. A manuscript is being prepared. Alternatives to Traditional Molting. This study has been completed and the manuscript is currently being prepared.


4. Accomplishments


5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Understanding aggression when sows are mixed in indoor and outdoor housing systems. Half of the data collection for this project was carried out at a small, ‘niche-market’, outdoor producer with pedigree Berkshire swine. The results from our study will be applicable not only to large-scale indoor production, but will also equally apply to small-scale outdoor production, thereby benefiting USDA target populations.


Review Publications
Marchant Forde, J.N., Pajor, E.A. 2009. Welfare of Gestating Sows. In: Marchant-Forde, J.N., editor. The Welfare of Pigs. Dordrecht, The Netherlands:Springer Science + Business Media B.V. p. 95-140.

Cheng, H. 2010. Breeding of Tomorrow’s Chickens to Improve Well-Being. Poultry Science. 89(4):805-813.

Pohle, K., Cheng, H. 2009. Furnished Cage System and Hen Well-Being: Comparative Effects of Furnished and Battery Cages on Egg Production and Physiological Parameters of White Leghorn Hens. Poultry Science. 88(8):1559-1564.

Horn, M.J., Van Emon, M.L., Gunn, P.J., Eicher, S.D., Lemenager, R.P., Pyatt, N., Lake, S.L. 2010. The Effects of Maternal Natural (RRR Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate) or Synthetic (All-Rac Alpha-Tocopherol Acetate) Vitamin E Supplementation on Suckling Calf Performance, Colostrum IgG, and Immune Function. Journal of Animal Science. 88:3128-3135.

Bewley, J.M., Boehlje, M.D., Gray, A.W., Hogeveen, H., Kenyon, S.J., Eicher, S.D., Schutz, M.M. 2010. Assessing the Potential Value for an Automated Body Condition Scoring System through Stochastic Simulation. Agricultural Finance Review. 70(1):126-150.

Poletto, R., Meisel, R.L., Richert, B.T., Cheng, H., Marchant Forde, J.N. 2010. Aggression in Replacement Grower and Finisher Gilts Fed a High-Tryptophan Diet and the Effect of Long-Term Human-Animal Interaction. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 122(24):90-110.

Bewley, J.M., Boehlje, M.D., Gray, A.W., Hogeveen, H., Kenyon, S.J., Eicher, S.D., Schutz, M.M. 2010. Stochastic Simulation using @Risk for Dairy Business Investment Decisions. Agricultural Finance Review. 70(1):97-125.

Last Modified: 10/16/2017
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