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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

2013 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Objective 1: Develop scientific measures of the well-being of swine for industry practices or production challenges including lameness, aggression, and neonatal mortality. Identify husbandry and environmental challenges and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard the well-being of swine. 1.A. Increase sow longevity by increasing articular cartilage health. 1.B. Decrease perinatal and neonatal piglet mortality. 1.C. Determine factors that influence aggression in pigs. Objective 2: Develop scientific measures of the well-being of dairy cattle for industry practices or production challenges including lameness, pain, and discomfort; and group housing of calves. Identify husbandry and environmental challenges and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard the well-being of dairy cattle. 2.A. Identify a novel indicator of chronic pain in cattle. 2.B. Determine optimum age for grouping, group size, and need for individual partitioning of trough space for group-housed veal and dairy calves. Objective 3: Develop scientific measures of the well-being of poultry for industry practices or production challenges including aggression, heat stress and alternative housing. Identify husbandry and environmental challenges and develop sustainable alternatives that safeguard the well-being of poultry. 3.A. Prevent aggression in poultry by modification of the serotonergic system. 3.B. Develop intervention strategies for increasing heat tolerance in poultry. 3.C. Develop alternative housing for poultry.


1b. Approach (from AD-416):
The long-term objective of this project is to optimize animal welfare 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. This project will examine animal agricultural practices, using behavior, physiology, immunology, and neurobiology. The project’s focus is on 4 significant areas of concern: aggression, lameness, pain, and discomfort. This unit is charged with the difficult task of conducting research for three species: dairy cattle, swine, and poultry. To accomplish this goal, unit scientists with different expertise work together on multiple and varying projects to address the primary challenges to welfare that are characteristic of the production systems for each species. Our ultimate goal is to: 1) discover and further refine objective measures of stress, and 2) evaluate and create appropriate management and housing methods. A sustained effort is required to make significant progress in optimizing animal welfare.


3. Progress Report:
Lameness in Sows. We have initiated a project to determine if slowing the growth of sows will allow the cartilage in their joints to develop without lesions. A small group of sows have started on the test diet to determine its efficacy. Increasing piglet energy. This study was designed to increase circulating energy in neonatal pigs so that they can better maintain their body temperature. Data are still being analyzed but it does not look like the treatments were successful. Group size for dairy calves. This project sought to determine optimum group size for dairy/veal calves. The experiment has been conducted, data analyzed, and a manuscript has been submitted. Although each group size had tested (2, 4, or 8) had its advantages and disadvantages, it appears that groups of 4 worked best. A second study has been initiated to determine the best age for grouping calves. Currently 3, 7, and 14 days of age at grouping are being investigated. Tryptophan and aggression in poultry. The dose determination portion of this project has been completed and dietary treatments initiated. Chicks are being raised and data will be collected when they are older to determine if dietary tryptophan can decrease aggression. Perch use by layer hens. This study has been completed, data analyzed and a publication submitted.


4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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