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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics


Location: Livestock Behavior Research

2011 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The overall objective of our current program is to identify husbandry and environmental factors that challenge animal welfare and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard animal welfare and productivity. The specific objectives of this project are: 1) to examine the cellular and molecular mechanisms of pain in chickens following beak trimming; 2) to identify if infrared beak trimming is a less painful method than hot blade beak trimming; and 3) to develop pain biomarkers for evaluating husbandry practices used in the farm animal industry.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
A total of 1,056, 1-day-old, chicks (Hy-line, W-36) will be randomly distributed among 4 treatment groups: infrared beak treatment at 1 day of age; hot-blade trimming at 1 day of age; hot-blade trimming at 7 days of age and; an untrimmed control treatment. The birds will be housed in 6-bird/cage (67 in**2/bird) under the standard management. Mortality will be recorded over time. Samples (brain, blood, and beak) and behaviors will be collected at 1, 2, 5, 10, 18, 25, 35, 45 and 60 weeks post-trimming (n=12 calculated based on alpha = 0.05 and 1-ß= 0.80). Brain and blood samples will be analyzed for the changes of pain-associated neurotransmitters and neuropeptides using HPLC or RIA, respectively. Beak samples will be analyzed for traumatic-associated changes of nerve fibers and neuroma formation using histological staining, immuncytochemistry, and the MCID Imaging system. Both general circadian and pain-test behavior will be recorded using a 16 channel digital video recording (DVR) system. Behavioral data will be collected from DVDs using two methods; 5-min scan samples and continuous focal sampling. In addition, physical data, body weight, feather score, feed intake, egg production, and feed efficiency, will be collected in the study. Behavior, neuroendocrine function, and production will be compared statistically among the treatments.

3. Progress Report
The behavioral data, blood, and brain samples from the birds have been collected. Data analysis is partially completed. We have identified that there were no abnormal nerve fibers (i.e., neuromas associated with chronic pain) within the beak stumps of the hens trimmed at 1 day of age by using infrared or hot blade, which is different from the previous findings collected from the hens trimmed at 5 weeks of age or older. The results also showed that infrared beak trimming is more effective at inhibiting beak re-growth with a less or, at least, a similar impact on hen welfare compared to hot blade beak trimming. One manuscript has been published by a peer-reviewed journal and another one has been submitted. The principle investigator monitored the progress of the investigation by holding monthly meetings with the co-investigators and other persons involved in the study.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 07/22/2017
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