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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Characterizing and Managing Animal Stress/Well-Being in Livestock Production


Project Number: 5438-32630-006-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Jul 31, 2012
End Date: Sep 30, 2014

For growing meat animals, identify physiological responses to stress that contribute to production loss and disease susceptibility; develop environmental and animal-specific risk assessments of stress as management guides to alert producers and improve animal well-being; develop precision animal management strategies to ameliorate heat stress effects; and develop ventilation design standards for contemporary swine production systems.

This project incorporates components of two former research projects on management of livestock stress and genetic factors related to disease susceptibility. Stress response evaluation utilizes physiological (respiration rate, health status, etc.), physical (body temperature, coat color, etc.), and behavioral (temperament, eating, etc.) measurements to characterize the impact of stress (particularly environmental) on feedlot cattle. These measurements will be refined to provide dynamic response evaluations in a feedlot setting, both for data collection and as potential management tools. The results will provide risk assessment models to assist producers in identification of animals that would most benefit from changes in management (shade, sprinklers, etc.). In addition, weather data will be utilized to provide advanced warnings to producers of impending environmentally stressful conditions to cattle. Genetic diversity for stress traits among several breeds will be characterized to identify breed differences and suggest management alternatives based on genotype. Also, criteria of ventilation requirements for swine production will be updated for modern lean high growth rate animals and ration formulations. Livestock will be observed in production feedlot settings or in controlled environment chambers to provide suitable environmental and management control. The feedlot includes modern animal handling facilities to individually manage cattle or provide group penning of cattle with or without shade. Environmental chambers provide precision control of environmental factors (temperature, humidity, and light) in close proximity of calorimeter equipment to measure energy expenditure of livestock. The availability of a wide range of cattle breeds, extensive animal handling and technical expertise, and animal health practitioners provides the necessary resources for conducting basic and applied research.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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