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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Research Project #432941

Research Project: Protecting the Welfare of Food Producing Animals

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Project Number: 5020-32000-013-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Aug 14, 2017
End Date: Jul 21, 2022

The long-term objective of this project is tightly focused to optimize animal welfare and productivity under modern farming conditions. The approach is to focus on animal behavior and the cumulative effects of internal biological changes, to assess where challenges may exist and to develop alternative management strategies; and to determine how changes in behavior relate to physiology and productivity. We will focus on the following objectives: Objective 1: To develop measures of animal welfare that are science-based and informative under industry conditions and practices. 1.A. Determine the thermal preference of sows and their physiological response during a heat stress event. 1.B. Assess the use of non-linear methods of measuring heart rate variability to determine if they can be used to assess pain in pigs and calves. 1.C. Expand chronic pain markers in dairy cow and sow leukocyte mRNA that create a profile of chronic pain that may be attributed to housing. 1.D. Evaluate tear staining as a welfare indicator in pigs. Objective 2: To determine the impact of production practices and environmental factors on animal welfare. 2.A. Determine the influence of the auditory environment of sows and its influence on maternal behavior and crushing. 2.B. Simultaneously enhance the thermal environment of sows and piglets to increase sow comfort and piglet survivability. 2.C. Evaluating the impact of in utero heat stress on postnatal behavior and stress response in pigs. Objective 3: To optimize animal husbandry to improve animal welfare and farm productivity. 3.A. To evaluate the effects of a dietary synbiotic (Lactobacillus + FOS + ß- glucan) in combination with a nutraceutical substrate (L-glutamine) on pig health and productivity after weaning and transport stress. 3.B. Probiotics to support development of dairy calf respiratory immunity. 3.C. Determine if probiotics prevent osteoporosis in laying hens. 3.D. Reduce heat stress in broiler chickens by activating the microbiota-gut- brain axis using synbiotics. 3.E. Reduce social stress in laying hens by prenatal modification of the serotonergic system with tryptophan. 3.F. Determine the effects of environmental enrichment on welfare and productivity of swine at all stages of production.

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 3 significant areas of concern: 1) instances in which animals may experience pain or distress, 2) morbidity or mortality, and 3) the deleterious effects caused by climate variability. The varying expertise of the ARS scientists will be utilized to work together on multiple projects to address the primary challenges to animal welfare that are characteristic of the production systems for dairy cattle, swine and poultry. Our ultimate goal is to: 1) identify objective measures of distress, pain, and morbidity, 2) determine how specific production practices impact animal welfare, and 3) develop production practices to optimize welfare in a manner that also sustains and promotes productivity.