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Accommodating cattle indoors during the winter is widely practiced throughout Europe. There is currently no legislation surrounding the space allowance and floor type that should be provided to cattle during this time, however, concerns have been raised regarding the type of housing systems currently in use. The objective of the study was to investigate the effect of space allowance and floor type on performance and welfare of finishing beef heifers. Continental crossbred heifers (n=240: mean initial live; weight, 504 (SD 35.8) kg) were blocked by breed, weight and age and randomly assigned to one of four treatments; (i) 3.0 m2, (ii) 4.5 m2 and (iii) 6.0 m2 space allowance per animal on a fully slatted concrete floor and (iv) 6.0 m2 space allowance per animal on a straw-bedded floor, for 105 days. Heifers were offered a total mixed ration ad libitum. Dry matter intake was recorded on a pen basis and refusals were weighed back twice weekly. Heifers were weighed, dirt scored and blood sampled every 3 weeks. Whole blood was analysed for complete cell counts and serum samples were assayed for metabolite concentrations. Behaviour was recorded continuously using IR cameras from days 70 to 87. Heifers’ hooves were inspected for lesions at the start of the study and again after slaughter. Post-slaughter, carcass weight, conformation and fat scores and hide weight were recorded. Heifers housed at 4.5 m2 had a greater average daily live weight gain (ADG) than those on both of the other concrete slat treatments; however, space allowance had no effect on carcass weight. Heifers accommodated on straw had a greater ADG (0.15 kg) (P<0.05), hide weight (P<0.01) better feed conversion ratio (P<0.05) and had greater dirt scores (P<0.05) at slaughter than heifers accommodated on concrete slats at 6.0 m2. The number of heifers lying at any one time was greater (P<0.001) on straw than on concrete slats. Space allowance and floor type had no effect on the number of hoof lesions gained or on any of the haematological or metabolic variables measured. It was concluded that increasing space allowance above 3.0 m2/animal on concrete slats was of no benefit to animal performance but it did improve animal cleanliness. Housing heifers on straw instead of concrete slats improved ADG and increased lying time; however carcass weight was not affected.
The objective of this study was to investigate the relationship between temperature–humidity index (THI) and rumination time (RT) in order to possibly exploit it as a useful tool for animal welfare improvement. During summer 2015 (1 June to 31 August), data from an Italian Holstein dairy farm located in the North of Italy were collected along with environmental data (i.e. ambient temperature and relative humidity) recorded with a weather station installed inside the barn. Rumination data were collected through the Heatime® HR system (SCR Engineers Ltd., Hadarim, Netanya, Israel), an automatic system composed of a neck collar with a Tag that records the RT and activity of each cow. A significant negative correlation was observed between RT and THI. Mixed linear models were fitted, including animal and test day as random effects, and parity, milk production level and date of last calving as fixed effects. A statistically significant effect of THI on RT was identified, with RT decreasing as THI increased.
Blood serum proteins are significant indicators of animal health. Nevertheless, several factors should be considered to appropriately interpret their concentrations in blood. Therefore, the objectives of this study were (1) to assess the effect of herd productivity, breed, age and stage of lactation on serum proteins and (2) to investigate association between serum proteins and somatic cell count (SCC) in dairy cattle. Milk and blood samples were collected from 1508 cows of six different breeds (Holstein Friesian, Brown Swiss, Jersey, Simmental, Rendena and Alpine Grey) that were housed in 41 multi-breed herds. Milk samples were analyzed for composition and SCC, while blood samples were analyzed for serum proteins (i.e. total protein, albumin, globulin and albumin-to-globulin ratio (A : G)). Herds were classified as low or high production, according to the cow’s average daily milk energy yield adjusted for breed, days in milk (DIM) and parity. Data were analyzed using a linear mixed model that included the fixed effects of DIM, parity, SCS, breed, herd productivity and the random effect of the Herd-test date within productivity level. Cows in high producing herds (characterized also by greater use of concentrates in the diet) had greater serum albumin concentrations. Breed differences were reported for all traits, highlighting a possible genetic mechanism. The specialized breed Jersey and the two dual-purpose local breeds (Alpine Grey and Rendena) had the lowest globulin concentration and greatest A : G. Changes in serum proteins were observed through lactation. Total protein reached the highest concentration during the 4th month of lactation. Blood albumin increased with DIM following a quadratic pattern, while globulin decreased linearly. As a consequence, A : G increased linearly during lactation. Older cows had greater total protein and globulin concentrations, while albumin concentration seemed to be not particularly affected by age. A linear relationship between serum proteins and SCS was observed. High milk SCS was associated with greater total protein and globulin concentrations in blood. The rise in globulin concentration, together with a decrease in albumin concentrations, resulted in a decline in A : G as SCS of milk increased. In conclusion, such non-genetic factors must be considered to appropriately interpret serum proteins as potential animal welfare indicator and their evaluation represents an important first-step for future analysis based on the integration of metabolomics, genetic and genomic information for improving the robustness of dairy cows.
This study investigated high mortality in broilers transported to slaughter in Norway by comparing data from flocks with normal and high mortality during transportation. The data sources consisted of necropsy findings in 535 broilers dead-on-arrival (DOA), production data and slaughterhouse data, along with average journey duration for the 61 associated flocks. The mean Norwegian DOA% for 2015 was 0.10. In this study, normal-mortality flocks were defined as flocks with a mean DOA% up to 0.30 and high mortality as flocks with a mean DOA% above 0.30. DOA% was calculated per flock. The most frequent pathological finding was lung congestion which was observed in 75.5% of the DOA broilers. This postmortem finding was significantly more common in broilers from high-mortality flocks (89.3%) than in DOA broilers from normal-mortality flocks (58%). The following variables had a significantly (P<0.05) higher median in the high-mortality flocks: flock size, 1st week mortality, foot pad lesion score, carcass rejection numbers and journey duration. The results indicate that high broiler mortality during transportation to the abattoir may be linked to several steps in the broiler production chain. The results suggest that preventive measures are to be considered in improvement of health and environmental factors during the production period and throughout the journey duration.
The Nofence technology is a GPS-based virtual fencing system designed to keep sheep within predefined borders, without using physical fences. Sheep wearing a Nofence collar receive a sound signal when crossing the virtual border and a weak electric shock if continuing to walk out from the virtual enclosure. Two experiments testing the functionality of the Nofence system and a new learning protocol is described. In Experiment 1, nine ewes with their lambs were divided into groups of three and placed in an experimental enclosure with one Nofence border. During 2 days, there was a physical fence outside the border, during Day 3 the physical fence was removed and on Day 4, the border was moved to the other end of the enclosure. The sheep received between 6 and 20 shocks with an average of 10.9±2.0 (mean±SE) per ewe during all 4 days. The number of shocks decreased from 4.38±0.63 on Day 3 (when the physical fence was removed) to 1.5±0.71 on Day 4 (when the border was moved). The ewes spent on average 3%, 6%, 46% and 9% of their time outside the border on Days 1, 2, 3 and 4, respectively. In Experiment 2, 32 ewes, with and without lambs, were divided into groups of eight and placed in an experimental enclosure. On Day 1, the enclosure was fenced with three physical fences and one virtual border, which was then increased to two virtual borders on Day 2. To continue to Day 3, when there was supposed to be three virtual borders on the enclosure, at least 50% of the ewes in a group should have received a maximum of four shocks on Day 2. None of the groups reached this learning criterion and the experiment ended after Day 2. The sheep received 4.1±0.32 shocks on Day 1 and 4.7±0.28 shocks on Day 2. In total, 71% of the ewes received the maximum number of five shocks on Day 1 and 77% on Day 2. The individual ewes spent between 0% and 69.5% of Day 1 in the exclusion zone and between 0% and 64% on Day 2. In conclusion, it is too challenging to ensure an efficient learning and hence, animal welfare cannot be secured. There were technical challenges with the collars that may have affected the results. The Nofence prototype was unable to keep the sheep within the intended borders, and thus cannot replace physical fencing for sheep.
Pre-slaughter transportation may affect poultry welfare and mortality rates. A retrospective analysis was conducted to examine the effect of environmental, management and individual factors on the percentage of dead birds during pre-slaughter transportation (dead-on-arrival, DOA). The variables accounted for in the analyses included: environmental temperature, travel duration, genetic line, gender, crate type and crate stocking density. Among the 41 452 loads of turkeys (34 696 388 birds) and 3241 of end of lay hens (21 788 124 birds) transported to three large abattoirs in northern Italy in a 3-year period, the median DOA was 0.14% in turkeys, and 0.38% in hens. In turkeys, travel duration longer than 30 min, temperature higher than 26°C and high in-crate densities were associated with increased DOA. In winter (⩽2°C), high stocking densities did not reduce the mortality risk from cold stress; on the contrary, for stocking densities either near to or just above the maximum density in EC Reg. 1/2005, the DOA risk was greater than for loads with densities of 10 kg/m2 less than the EC maximum. Male birds and specific genetic lines also showed a higher DOA. In hens, transportation lasting longer than 2 h and the brown-feathered breed were associated with higher DOA. Dead-on-arrival progressively increased with travel duration, remaining constant between 4 and 6 h and peaking at 8 h (median: 0.57%). The maximum DOA increase was detected during winter. These results show that several species-specific factors may lead to increased risk of mortality.
Traumatic situations in animals induce responses including pain, expressed through behavioural and physiological pathways such as inflammation, oxidative stress, hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and autonomic nervous system. As some of these systems can also be activated during excitement and situations with a positive valence, their use as a means to assess pain response is difficult. We explored (i) how these five aforementioned pathways change in sheep exposed to various degrees of invasiveness of surgical procedures despite a therapeutic regimen and (ii) whether a multiparametric analysis that combines information from these five pathways enhances the discrimination between these situations, and estimates the relative importance of these pathways in the response. We used 24 adult sheep split into four treatments: Control (C; no fasting, no anaesthesia, no surgery), Sham (S; fasting, anaesthesia, no surgery), Rumen Canulation (R; fasting, anaesthesia, rumen cannulation) and Rumen–Duodenal–Ileum cannulation (RDI; fasting, anaesthesia, cannulation of the rumen, duodenum and ileum). Sheep’ responses were measured for 5 days after surgery. When considering each behavioural or physiological pathway independently, discrimination between treatments was acceptable, its sensitivity (Se) ranging from 0% to 100%, and its specificity (Sp) ranging from 62% to 100%. The multiparametric analysis gathering information from the five pathways enhanced the effectiveness of discrimination between treatments (Se, 50% to 100%; Sp, 82% to 100%), and gave additional information on the relative contribution of each pathway to the global sheep response. Sheep global response was higher when exposed to a surgery, and increased with the surgery invasiveness. This response relied mostly on inflammation (absolute correlation for haptoglobin, 0.89), HPA (cortisol, 0.85) and behaviour (antalgic postures, 0.85). The multiparametric approach seems to be a promising tool to discriminate between different degrees of invasiveness of surgical procedures.
Oesophago-gastric ulcers (OGU) are a production and welfare problem in pigs. Stomach condition was scored for 22 551 pigs in 228 batches over a 7-month period at an abattoir in Italy processing heavy pigs for ham production. Mild or severe ulceration was observed in 20.7% of pigs, of which 13% had scar tissue. Variation between batches was high (0% to 36% prevalence of severe ulcers) and showed a significant effect of farm of origin (P<0.001). Overnight lairage increased the prevalence of mild ulcers (P<0.001), but not severe or scarred ulcers. Scarred ulcers increased in the hottest summer months. Prevalence of ulcers showed only few and weak correlations at batch level with pathologies of the pleura, lungs and liver, but a strong correlation with on-farm mortality of the batch. Analysis of farm risk factors for OGU was assessed by questionnaire with a response rate of 17% of farms. Risk factors retained in a multivariable model included a protective effect of anthelmintic treatment (risk ratio (RR)=5.1, P=0.03), increased risk in farms using Mycoplasma vaccination (RR=5.6, P=0.04) and a tendency for association with type of flooring (P=0.06). Univariable analyses also highlighted possible influences of other stress-inducing factors including lack of enrichment objects and mixing of pigs during fattening, suggesting that the role of on-farm stressors merits further investigation. It is concluded that abattoir screening of OGU in future programmes for the assessment of well-being on farm should encompass only severe lesions and scarring, and results be returned to farmers to facilitate improvement of production and welfare.
Slaughter is a crucial step in the meat production chain that could induce psychological stress on each animal, resulting in a physiological response that can differ among individuals. The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between an animal’s emotional state, the subsequent psychological stress at slaughter and the cellular damage as an effect. In all, 36 entire male pigs were reared at an experimental farm and a cognitive bias test was used to classify them into positive bias (PB) or negative bias (NB) groups depending on their decision-making capabilities. Half of the animals, slaughtered in the same batch, were used for a complete study of biomarkers of stress, including brain neurotransmitters and some muscle biomarkers of oxidative stress. After slaughter, specific brain areas were excised and the levels of catecholamines (noradrenaline (NA) and dopamine (DA)) and indoleamines (5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid and serotonin (5HT)) were analyzed. In addition, muscle proteasome activity (20S), antioxidant defence (total antioxidant activity (TAA)), oxidative damage (lipid peroxidation (LPO)) and autophagy biomarkers (Beclin-1, microtubule-associated protein I light chain 3 (LC3-I) and LC3-II) were monitored during early postmortem maturation (0 to 24 h). Compared with PB animals, NB pigs were more susceptible to stress, showing higher 5HT levels (P<0.01) in the hippocampus and lower DA (P<0.001) in the pre-frontal cortex. Furthermore, NB pigs had more intense proteolytic processes and triggered primary muscle cell survival mechanisms immediately after slaughter (0 h postmortem), thus showing higher TAA (P<0.001) and earlier proteasome activity (P<0.001) and autophagy (Beclin-1, P<0.05; LC3-II/LC3-I, P<0.001) than PB pigs, in order to counteract the induced increase in oxidative stress, that was significantly higher in the muscle of NB pigs at 0 h postmortem (LPO, P<0.001). Our study is the first to demonstrate that pig’s cognitive bias influences the animal’s susceptibility to stress and has important effects on the postmortem muscle metabolism, particularly on the cell antioxidant defences and the autophagy onset. These results expand the current knowledge regarding biomarkers of animal welfare and highlight the potential use of biomarkers of the proteasome, the autophagy (Beclin-1, LC3-II/LC3-I ratio) and the muscle antioxidant defence (TAA, LPO) for detection of peri-slaughter stress.
Pigs living in commercial husbandry systems may experience both acute stress due to standard management procedures and chronic stress through limitations in their barren housing environment. This might influence their immune status, including antibody responses to neural and danger autoantigens. Levels of natural autoantibody (NAAb)-binding phosphorylcholine-conjugated bovine serum albumin (PC-BSA) and myelin basic protein (MBP) were measured over time in pigs that were kept in environmental enriched v. barren housing, and that underwent a regrouping test. In total, 480 pigs were housed in 80 pens in either barren or straw-enriched pens from 4 through 23 weeks of age. Blood samples were taken from pigs before (week 8), and 3 days after a 24 h regrouping test (week 9), and at 22 weeks of age. Phosphorylcholine-conjugated bovine serum albumin (PC-BSA) and MBP antibody titres in serum were measured using ELISA. Enriched-housed pigs had higher levels of IgM-binding MBP, and tended to have higher levels of IgG-binding MBP and IgA-binding PC-BSA than barren-housed pigs. Each NAAb measured in this study was affected by gender and litter. These results suggest that enriched housing conditions, as well as acute regrouping stress, have an influence on levels of serum NAAb-binding danger and neural antigens in pigs.
We investigated if sexual behaviour of rams can be assessed with an electronic Alpha-Detector (AD) which automatically records mounts of mating rams. To evaluate the rams’ libido (i.e. all sexual activities), we used six intact and six vasectomised rams in pen tests in three different seasons (late spring, autumn and early spring). The pen tests consisted of 30-min visual observations of each ram placed in a group of six Merino ewes (three ewes in oestrus and three ewes not in oestrus). In the pen tests, sexual behaviour was recorded and divided into two categories: pre-copulatory and copulatory. For validation purposes, during the pen tests the 12 rams were equipped with the AD and the number of times the 18 oestrous ewes were mounted were counted over a period of 3 days. Of the 1191 mounts visually identified in the six 30-min sessions, 1026 were recorded automatically by the AD (i.e. 94%). The paddock test is an automated method consisting of the same rams wearing an AD and placed in a flock of ~250 Merino ewes on two occasions (late spring (spring 1) and early spring of the following year (spring 2)), their copulatory activities were automatically recorded over a 5-day period. The results of the pen tests in the three seasons revealed no difference between the two types of rams (breeding v. detecting rams). Based on live observations high correlations (r=+0.81, P<0.003 for breeding and r=+0.76, P<0.02 for detecting rams) were found between pre-copulatory and copulatory behaviours. The libido of the two types of rams measured in pen tests showed high repeatability across the three seasons (83 and 75%, P<0.05 for copulatory and pre-copulatory behaviours, respectively). When measured automatically in paddock tests over two consecutive springs, even higher repeatability was observed in both breeding (94%; P<0.01) and detecting rams (97%; P<0.004) in the number of mounts. In addition, high correlations (+0.89<r<+0.94) between copulatory behaviours, as measured by live observations, and those measured by the AD were obtained. The automatic measurement of ram libido in paddock tests appears to be more reliable than pen tests and far less time consuming. We therefore recommend this automated method to estimate the libido of rams. In addition, this method can be used at any season of the year provided that ewes in oestrus are present in the flock.
The vast majority of piglets reared in the European Union (EU) and worldwide is tail docked to reduce the risk of being tail bitten, even though EU animal welfare legislation bans routine tail docking. Many conventional herds experience low levels of tail biting among tail docked pigs, however it is not known, what the prevalence would have been had the pigs not been tail docked. The aim of this study was to compare the prevalence of tail lesions between docked and undocked pigs in a conventional piggery in Denmark with very low prevalence of tail biting among tail docked pigs. The study included 1922 DanAvl Duroc×(Landrace×Large White) female and castrated male pigs (962 docked and 960 undocked). Docked and undocked pigs were housed under the same conditions in the same room but in separate pens with 20 (±0.03) pigs/pen. Pigs had ad libitum access to commercial diets in a feed dispenser. Manipulable material in the form of chopped straw was provided daily on the floor (~10 g/pig per day), and each pen had two vertically placed soft wood boards. From weaning to slaughter, tail wounds (injury severity and freshness) were scored every 2nd week. No clinical signs of injured tails were observed within the tail docked group, whereas 23.0% of the undocked pigs got a tail lesion. On average, 4.0% of the pigs with undocked tails had a tail lesion on tail inspection days. More pens with tail lesions were observed among pigs weighing 30 to 60 kg (34.3%; P<0.05) than in pens with pigs weighing 7 to 30 kg (13.0%) and 60 to 90 kg (12.8%). Removal of pigs to a hospital pen was more likely in undocked pens (P<0.05, 47.7% undocked pens and 22.9% docked pens). Finally, abattoir meat inspection data revealed more tail biting remarks in undocked pigs (P<0.001). In conclusion, this study suggests that housing pigs with intact tails in conventional herds with very low prevalence of tail biting among tail docked pigs, will increase the prevalence of pigs with tail lesions considerably, and pig producers will need more hospital pens. Abattoir data indicate that tail biting remarks from meat inspection data severely underestimate on-farm prevalence of tail lesions.
Animal welfare standards have been incorporated in EU legislation and in farm assurance schemes, based on scientific information and aiming to safeguard the welfare of the species concerned. Recently, emphasis has shifted from resource-based measures of welfare to animal-based measures, which are considered to assess more accurately the welfare status. The data used in this analysis were collected from April 2013 to May 2016 through the ‘Real Welfare’ scheme in order to assess on-farm pig welfare, as required for those finishing pigs under the UK Red Tractor Assurance scheme. The assessment involved five main measures (percentage of pigs requiring hospitalization, percentage of lame pigs, percentage of pigs with severe tail lesions, percentage of pigs with severe body marks and enrichment use ratio) and optional secondary measures (percentage of pigs with mild tail lesions, percentage of pigs with dirty tails, percentage of pigs with mild body marks, percentage of pigs with dirty bodies), with associated information about the environment and the enrichment in the farms. For the complete database, a sample of pens was assessed from 1928 farm units. Repeated measures were taken in the same farm unit over time, giving 112 240 records at pen level. These concerned a total of 13 480 289 pigs present on the farm during the assessments, with 5 463 348 pigs directly assessed using the ‘Real Welfare’ protocol. The three most common enrichment types were straw, chain and plastic objects. The main substrate was straw which was present in 67.9% of the farms. Compared with 2013, a significant increase of pens with undocked-tail pigs, substrates and objects was observed over time (P<0.05). The upper quartile prevalence was <0.2% for all of the four main physical outcomes, and 15% for mild body marks. The percentage of pigs that would benefit from being in a hospital pen was positively correlated to the percentage of lame pigs, and the absence of tail lesions was positively correlated with the absence of body marks (P<0.05, R>0.3). The results from the first 3 years of the scheme demonstrate a reduction of the prevalence of animal-based measures of welfare problems and highlight the value of this initiative.
Conditioned taste aversion (CTA) is a useful tool to modify animal feed preferences, allowing the implementation of selective grazing to control weeds in tree orchards without damaging the trees or affecting fruit production. LiCl is commonly used for inducing CTA. However, studies investigating the long-term persistence of CTA by LiCl in small ruminants are scarce. With this aim, we evaluated the efficiency of two LiCl doses (AV1 and AV2, 175 and 200 mg/kg BW, respectively) and a control (C, 0 mg/kg BW) for averting non-lactating dairy goats (n=15) to olive tree leaves. Aversion induction was reinforced on day 9 in those goats that consumed >10 g of olive leaves. Mid-term aversion effectiveness was assessed by five double-choice feeding tests (days 16, 24, 31, 38 and 53) of 30 min each, where 100 g of olive leaves were offered side-by-side with 390 g of Italian rye-grass (as-fed). Long-term aversion effectiveness was assessed in C, AV1 and AV2 goats by grazing for 30 min in paddocks with a simulated olive tree (days 59, 90, 121, 182 and 420). Moreover, C and AV2 goats were compared under on-field conditions (days 143, 211 and 363) in a commercial olive grove also for 30 min. The CTA proved to be established with a single LiCl dose in all goats and persisted for 4 and 55 days in AV1 and AV2 goats, respectively (P<0.001). However, 80% AV1 and 20% AV2 goats needed to be reinforced at day 9. When grazing under simulated olive tree and commercial olive grove conditions, the CTA goats, especially AV2 group, avoided the contact with the olive trees and minimally used a bipedal stance to feed leaves, than control goats. On average, time proportion spent consuming olive leaves and sprouts was much greater (P<0.05) for C (50.7±9.1%) than for AV1 (14.4±3.9%) and AV2 (3.1±0.9%). In conclusion, the 200 mg LiCl/kg BW dose was more effective than the 175 mg LiCl/kg BW dose for inducing an effective long-term CTA to olive tree leaves in goats.
Animal welfare has become an important subject of public and political debate, leading to the necessity of an objective evaluation system for on-farm use. As welfare is a multi-dimensional concept, it makes sense to use a multi-criteria aggregation system to obtain an overall welfare score. Such an aggregation system is provided by the Welfare Quality® Network. The present paper focusses on the assessment of the multi-criteria evaluation model included in the Welfare Quality® protocol for growing pigs in order to aggregate the animal-based indicators first to criteria, then to principles and finally to an overall welfare score. Specifically, the importance of the indicators on the overall assessment of growing pig farms is analysed in a given population which consisted of a total of 198 protocol assessments carried out on a sample of 24 farms in Germany. By means of partial least squares modelling, the influence of measures in the calculation procedure is estimated by calculation and interpretation of Variable Importance for Projection (VIP) scores. Variable Importance for Projection scores revealed some meaningful, unexpected influences as the multi-criteria evaluation model of Welfare Quality® aimed at avoiding interferences and double-counting. Some of these influences led to the assumption that some measures might have potential as iceberg indicators, whereas others showed lesser importance. Thus, feasibility can be gained by the deletion and special weighting of indicators according to their importance. Altogether, the study is an essential contribution to the further development of the Welfare Quality® protocols as well as the application of multi-criteria decision systems in the field of animal welfare science in general.
We investigated the effects of nest box climate on early mink kit mortality and growth. We hypothesised that litters in warm nest boxes experience less hypothermia-induced mortality and higher growth rates during the 1st week of life. This study included data from 749, 1-year-old breeding dams with access to nesting materials. Kits were weighed on days 1 and 7, dead kits were collected daily from birth until day 7 after birth, and nest climate was measured continuously from days 1 to 6. We tested the influences of the following daily temperature (T) and humidity (H) parameters on the number of live-born kit deaths and kit growth: Tmean, Tmin, Tmax, Tvar (fluctuation) and Hmean. The nest microclimate experienced by the kits was buffered against the ambient climate, with higher temperatures and reduced climate fluctuation. Most (77.0%) live-born kit deaths in the 1st week occurred on days 0 and 1. Seven of 15 climate parameters on days 1 to 3 had significant effects on live-born kit mortality. However, conflicting effects among days, marginal effects and late effects indicated that climate was not the primary cause of kit mortality. Five of 30 climate parameters had significant effects on kit growth. Few and conflicting effects indicated that the climate effect on growth was negligible. One exception was that large nest temperature fluctuations on day 1 were associated with reduced deaths of live-born kit (P<0.001) and increased kit growth (P=0.003). Litter size affected kit vitality; larger total litter size at birth was associated with greater risks of kit death (P<0.001) and reduced growth (P<0.001). The number of living kits in litters had the opposite effect, as kits in large liveborn litters had a reduced risk of death (P<0.001) and those with large mean litter size on days 1 to 7 had increased growth (P=0.026). Nest box temperature had little effect on early kit survival and growth, which could be due to dams’ additional maternal behaviour. Therefore, we cannot confirm that temperature is the primary reason for kit mortality, under the conditions of plenty straw access for maternal nest building. Instead, prenatal and/or parturient litter size is the primary factor influencing early kit vitality. The results indicate that the focus should be on litter size and dam welfare around the times of gestation and birth to increase early kit survival in farmed mink.
The transition from gestation to lactation is marked by significant physiological changes for the individual cow such that disease incidence is highest in early lactation. Around the time of calving, cows rely on mobilisation of body energy reserves to fill the energy deficit created by an increase in nutrient demands at a time of restricted feed intake. It is well established that monitoring of body energy reserves in lactation is an important component of herd health management. However, despite their influence on future health and productivity, monitoring of body energy reserves in the dry period is often sparse. Further, there is increasing concern that current dry off management is inappropriate for modern cattle and may influence future disease risk. This study aimed to identify candidate indicators of early lactation production disease from body energy data collected in the dry period and production data recorded at the time of dry off. Retrospective analysis was performed on 482 cow-lactations collected from a long-term Holstein-Friesian genetic and management systems project, the Langhill herd in Scotland. Cow-lactations were assigned to one of four health groups based on health status in the first 30 days of lactation. These four groups were as follows: healthy, reproductive tract disorders (retained placenta and metritis), subclinical mastitis and metabolic disorders (ketosis, hypocalcaemia, hypomagnesaemia and left displaced abomasum). ANOVA, employing a GLM was used to determine effects for the candidate indicator traits. Cows which were diagnosed with a reproductive tract disorder in the first 30 days of lactation experienced a significantly greater loss in body energy content, body condition score and weight in the preceding dry period than healthy cows. The rate of change in body energy content during the first 15 days of the dry period was −18.26 MJ/day for cows which developed reproductive tract disorder compared with +0.63 MJ/day for healthy cows. Cows diagnosed with subclinical mastitis in the first 30 days of lactation had significantly greater milk yield at dry off in the previous lactation than cows that developed a reproductive tract disorder or metabolic disease in addition to a significantly higher yield to body energy content ratio at dry off than healthy cows. Physiological and production traits recorded in the lactation and dry period preceding a disease event differed between cows which developed different diseases post-calving. Differences in these traits allow the development of new disease indicators for use in models for the prediction of disease risk in the transition period.
Colostrum intake has a short- and long-term beneficial impact on piglet performance and mortality. Sows’ colostrum production and piglets’ colostrum intake are limited and highly variable. The present study investigated sow and piglet factors explaining the variation of colostrum intake between and within litters. The CV for colostrum intake and birth weight (BWb) of all piglets within a litter was calculated to evaluate the variation of colostrum intake and BWb within a litter (colostrum and litter BWb heterogeneity, respectively). A total of 1937 live-born piglets from 135 litters from 10 commercial herds were included. Colostrum intake per piglet averaged 371±144 g and was affected by breed (P=0.02). It was lower when oxytocin was administered to the sow during parturition (P=0.001) and with increased litter size (P<0.001). It was higher when the interval between birth and first suckling decreased (tFS, P<0.001). Colostrum intake was positively influenced by BWb (P<0.001) and this association was more pronounced in piglets from Topigs (P=0.03) and Hypor (P=0.03) sows compared with piglets from Danbred sow breeds. The positive relationship between colostrum intake and BWb was more pronounced when tFS lasted longer (P=0.009). Heterogeneity in colostrum intake averaged 31±11%, it increased when oxytocin was applied during farrowing (P=0.004) and when stillbirth occurred (P=0.006). Colostrum heterogeneity was positively associated with litter size (P<0.001) and litter BWb heterogeneity (P=0.01). The positive relationship between colostrum and litter BWb heterogeneity was more pronounced when oxytocin was applied during farrowing (P=0.04). The present study demonstrated that oxytocin should be used cautiously in sows during farrowing. Farrowing and colostrum management should prevent or counteract the adverse influences of stillbirth, large and heterogeneous litters on colostrum intake and colostrum heterogeneity. The study also confirmed the expected association between BWb and colostrum intake and indicated that the impact of BWb on colostrum intake was different among breeds (Hypor v. Danbred) and dependent on piglets’ latency to first suckling. Hence, colostrum management should focus on low birth weight piglets, especially in some breeds, and low colostrum intake in low birth weight piglets can be counteracted by shortening the tFS.
Previous work has shown that exposing broiler eggs to white light during incubation can improve hatchability and post-hatch animal welfare. It was hypothesized that due to how different wavelengths of light can affect avian physiology differently, and how pigmented eggshells filter light that different monochromatic wavelengths would have differential effects on hatchability and post-hatch animal welfare indicators. To determine, we incubated chicken eggs (n=6912) under either no light (dark), green light, red light or white light; the light level was 250 lux. White and red light were observed to increase hatch of fertile (P<0.05) over dark and green light incubated eggs. White, red and green light exposure during incubation improved (P<0.05) the proportion of non-defect chicks over dark incubated eggs. Post-hatch 45-day weight and feed conversion was not affected by light exposure of any wavelength (P>0.05). Fear response of during isolation and tonic immobility was reduced (P<0.05) in broilers incubated under white or red light when compared with either green or dark broilers. Broilers incubated with white or red light had lower (P<0.05) composite asymmetry scores and higher (P<0.05) humoral immunity titers than dark incubated broilers, however, green light broilers did not differ (P>0.05) from dark incubated broilers. All light incubated broilers had lower (P<0.05) plasma corticosterone and higher (P<0.05) plasma serotonin concentrations than dark incubated broilers. These results indicate that white light and red light that is a component of it are possibly the key spectrum to improving hatchability and lower fear and stress susceptibility, whereas green light is not as effective. Incubating broiler eggs under these spectrums could be used to improve hatchery efficiency and post-hatch animal welfare at the same time.