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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Research Project #425202

Research Project: Safeguarding Well-being of Food Producing Animals

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

2014 Annual Report

Objective 1: Develop measures of swine well-being that are science-based and informative under industry conditions and practices; determine the impact of production practices and environmental factors, including climate change, on animal well-being. 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 measures of dairy animal well-being that are science-based and informative under industry conditions and practices; determine the impact of production practices and environmental factors, including climate change, on animal well-being. 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 measures of poultry well-being that are science-based and informative under industry conditions and practices; determine the impact of production practices and environmental factors, including climate change, on animal well-being. 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.

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.

Progress Report
Lameness in sows. A pilot study was performed to determine if slowing the growth of young sows will allow healthy development of cartilage in their joints. Thus far, 10 sows have been sacrificed from either a control treatment or slow growth treatment. Data are being analyzed but it is evident that sows from both treatments still exhibit osteochondritic lesions (damaged cartilage) of the cartilage. These data indicate that slow grow may not solve this problem. Increasing piglet energy. Data have been collected and mostly analyzed to determine if injections at birth can increase piglet energy, and thus their ability to control their body temperature. Although some differences in physiology exist, the high mortality rate of these piglets indicate that this method may not provide a solution to allow the piglet to maintain body temperature. Increasing piglet survival with increased maternal tryptophan. Thus far we have completed data collection for this study. Behavioral and production data are currently being analyzed to determine if treatments are influencing sow and piglet behavior. Group size for dairy calves. The gene analysis of the group size of veal calves study was completed and a manuscript is under review. Age of grouping dairy calves. The study of the age at grouping of dairy calves was completed. All laboratory work is completed. Data analysis and work on the manuscript for age-at-grouping is in progress. Lameness in cows. The dairy manager has been consulted regarding changes that will need to be made at the dairy to facilitate this experiment. It is expected to start in the Fall 2014. Tryptophan and aggression in poultry. Data on the physiology and behavior of hens fed tryptophan has been collected and the experimental component is complete. Data are currently being analyzed. Supplemental antioxidants and heat stress. Hens have been assigned to treatments and physiological and behavioral data are being collected.

1. Age at grouping for pre-weaned dairy calves. Dairy calves have been shown to have more play and locomotion when housed in groups. But arguments are made for single housing for health concerns. Epidemiological studies suggest that health is a concern with early groupings. But no studies had made the comparisons between ages at grouping. ARS researchers at West Lafayette, IN found that grouping calves, in groups of 3 with individual hutches, at 14 days of age resulted in the greatest growth, compared with grouping at 3 and 7 days of age. However, immune measures did not reflect a difference among the groups. Based on these results calves may be better served by housing in groups after 14 days of age which will allow producers to optimize gain while decreasing calf disease.

2. Tear staining in swine as a novel measure of stress. Research to measure the amount of stress to which an animal is subjected struggles to identify definitive measures of stress. ARS researchers in West Lafayette, IN have recently identified tear staining (an indication of weepy eyes) as a potential sign of distress in swine. ARS in house research as well as an international cooperation have identified that tear staining is greater in subordinate pigs and pigs housed in barren environments. Tear staining in pigs has potential application as an on-farm welfare measure, known to be influenced by isolation and environmental enrichment, and related to measures of stress.

Review Publications
Abdelfattah, E.M., Schutz, M.M., Lay, Jr., D.C., Marchant-Forde, J.N., Eicher, S.D. 2013. Effect of group size on behavior, health, production and welfare of veal calves. Journal of Animal Science. 91:5455-5465.
Bahls, M., Sheldon, R.D., Taheripour, P., Clifford, K.A., Foust, K.B., Breslin, E.D., Marchant Forde, J.N., Cabot, R.A., Laughlin, M., Bidwell, C.A., Newcomer, S.C. 2014. Mothers' exercise during pregnancy programs vasomotor function in adult offspring. Experimental Physiology. 99(1):205-219.
Jiang, S., Hester, P.Y., Hu, J.Y., Yan, F.F., Dennis, R.L., Cheng, H. 2014. The effects of housing environment on liver health of laying hens. Poultry Science. 93:1618-1622.
Felver-Gant, J.N., Dennis, R.L., Zhao, J., Cheng, H. 2014. Effects of dietary antioxidant on performance and physiological responses following heat stress in laying hens. International Journal of Poultry Science. 13(5):260-271.
Rault, J., Carter, C.S., Garner, J.P., Marchant Forde, J.N., Richert, B.T., Lay Jr., D.C. 2013. Repeated intranasal oxytocin administration in early life dysregulates the HPA axis and alters social behavior. Physiology and Behavior. 112-113:40-48.
Roth, W.J., Kissinger, C.B., McCain, R.R., Cooper, B.R., Marchant Forde, J.N., Vreeman, R.C., Hannou, S., Knipp, G.T. 2013. Assessment of juvenile pigs to serve as human pediatric surrogates for preclinical formulation pharmacokinetic testing. American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. 15(3):763-764. DOI: 10.1208/S12248-013-9482-6.
Rault, J., Mack, L.A., Carter, C., Garner, J.P., Marchant Forde, J.N., Richert, B.T., Lay Jr., D.C. 2013. Prenatal stress puzzle, the oxytocin piece: Prenatal stress alters the behaviour and autonomic regulation in piglets, insights from oxytocin. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 148(1-2):99-107.
Anthony, R., Bergamasco, L., Coetzee, J., Dzikamunhenga, R.S., Gould, S., Johnson, A.K., Karriker, L.A., Marchant Forde, J.N., Martineau, G.S., McKean, J., Millman, S.T., Niekamp, S., O'Connor, A., Pajor, E.A., Rutherford, K., Sprague, M., Sutherland, M., von Borell, E. 2014. Pain management in the neonatal piglet during routine management procedures. Part 2: Grading the quality of evidence and the strength of recommendations. Animal Health Research Reviews. 15(1):39-62.
Zhou, Q., Sun, Q., Wang, G., Zhou, B., Lu, M., Marchant Forde, J.N., Yang, X., Zhao, R. 2014. Group housing during gestation affects the behaviour of sows and the physiological indices of offspring piglets at weaning. Animal. 8(7):1162-1169.
Marchant Forde, J.N., Lay Jr., D.C., McMunn, K.A., Cheng, H., Marchant-Forde, R.M., Pajor, E.A. 2014. Postnatal piglet husbandry practices and well-being: The effects of alternative techniques delivered in combination. Journal of Animal Science. 92(3):1150-1160.
Mack, L.A., Lay Jr., D.C., Eicher, S.D., Johnson, A.K., Richert, B.T., Pajor, E.A. 2014. Growth and reproductive development of male piglets are more vulnerable to mid-gestation maternal stress than that of female piglets. Journal of Animal Science. 92:530-548.
Mack, L.A., Lay Jr., D.C., Eicher, S.D., Johnson, A.K., Richert, B.T., Pajor, E.A. 2014. Group space allowance has little effect on sow health, productivity, or welfare in a free-access stall system. Journal of Animal Science. 92(6):2554-2567.
DeBoer, S.P., Garner, J.P., Lay Jr., D.C., Eicher, S.D., Lucas, J.R., Marchant Forde, J.N. 2013. Does the presence of a human effect the preference of enrichment items in young, isolated pigs? Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 143:96-103.