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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Related Topics


Location: Livestock Behavior Research

2012 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:
This was a very large study that has been completed. Data were collected on the behavioral and physiological changes that occur in chicks that are beak-trimmed using one of two methods; infra-red or hot-blade. Data were collected starting immediately after trimming at 1 day of age and continuing until the chicks were 60 weeks of age. This research supports the parent project 3602-32000-009-00D by addressing Objective 3, which is to develop scientific measures of, identify husbandry and environmental challenges to, and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard well-being of poultry. And it specifically targets the two subobjectives to: develop a model for developing biomarkers of stress and well-being in poultry; and to determine beak-trimming associated stress and its effects on bird well-being.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 06/27/2017
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