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Polyphenol oxidase (PPO) in red clover (RC) has been shown to reduce both lipolysis and proteolysis in silo and implicated (in vitro) in the rumen. However, all in vivo comparisons have compared RC with other forages, typically with lower levels of PPO, which brings in other confounding factors as to the cause for the greater protection of dietary nitrogen (N) and C18 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) on RC silage. This study compared two RC silages which when ensiled had contrasting PPO activities (RC+ and RC−) against a control of perennial ryegrass silage (PRG) to ascertain the effect of PPO activity on dietary N digestibility and PUFA biohydrogenation. Two studies were performed the first to investigate rumen and duodenal flow with six Hereford×Friesian steers, prepared with rumen and duodenal cannulae, and the second investigating whole tract N balance using six Holstein-Friesian non-lactating dairy cows. All diets were offered at a restricted level based on animal live weight with each experiment consisting of two 3×3 Latin squares using big bale silages ensiled in 2010 and 2011, respectively. For the first experiment digesta flow at the duodenum was estimated using a dual-phase marker system with ytterbium acetate and chromium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid as particulate and liquid phase markers, respectively. Total N intake was higher on the RC silages in both experiments and higher on RC− than RC+. Rumen ammonia-N reflected intake with ammonia-N per unit of N intake lower on RC+ than RC−. Microbial N duodenal flow was comparable across all silage diets with non-microbial N higher on RC than the PRG with no difference between RC+ and RC−, even when reported on a N intake basis. C18 PUFA biohydrogenation was lower on RC silage diets than PRG but with no difference between RC+ and RC−. The N balance trial showed a greater retention of N on RC+ over RC−; however, this response is likely related to the difference in N intake over any PPO driven protection. The lack of difference between RC silages, despite contrasting levels of PPO, may reflect a similar level of protein-bound-phenol complexing determined in each RC silage. Previously this complexing has been associated with PPOs protection mechanism; however, this study has shown that protection is not related to total PPO activity.
Current commercial poultry production in the UK faces many challenges which make it difficult to confidently predict the future. Changing legislation, responding largely to welfare pressures, is one such challenge. Additionally, consumer demands are widening. Eggs and meat from stock which is organically produced, or fed on rations containing no genetically modified ingredients, or free range produced, or corn fed are some of the assurances sought by the purchaser and consumer. Although the market place already offers such produce it is difficult to predict the extent to which they will penetrate a market which developed largely through the use of intensive production systems. The alternatives to intensively produced eggs and meat are more expensive to produce and therefore purchase and consequently are susceptible to changes in standards of living and the affluence of the consumer.
This paper briefly describes current commercial practices and some of the specific challenges arising from new legislation.
A description of some specific requirements of birds highlights areas where improvements, in terms of performance, production efficiency, and welfare might be gained. Since the overwhelming majority of eggs and meat is produced in intensive, highly automated systems, there is an obvious need for an integrated approach featuring engineers and the poultry industry to refine and further develop technology which better serves the birds, and ultimately, the consumer.
It is concluded that the UK cannot compete in production costs with some other areas of the world and as retailers increasingly source their goods worldwide, the UK poultry producer may have to resort to the production of products which satisfy niche demands.
Scientists have long known that certain pesticides, industrial chemicals and heavy metals have a detrimental impact on the reproductive health of a wide range of species (including humans) by disrupting the endocrine system. As exposure to, and the effects of, ‘endocrine disrupters’ are likely to be more pronounced in wild species with a short gestation period and life-cycle we have chosen to develop non-invasive tools based upon faecal steroid analysis to monitor the reproductive status of the short-tailed field vole (Microtus agrestis). This approach is hoped to eventually provide a sensitive means of detecting environmental disturbances that could adversely affect humans, livestock and wildlife by establishing the the field vole as a terrestrial biomarker. Faecal steroid hormone analysis has already been demonstrated as being a convenient and reliable means of diagnosing reproductive state in a large range of mammalian species (including gazelle, rhino, macaque and mice), however, as of yet little is known regarding the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy in M. agrestis.
The application of modern process control techniques to poultry production is outlined. Compact dynamic data-based models are proposed to describe and control the metabolic responses of broiler chickens to variations in the micro-environment. The dynamic response of heat production to step changes in air temperature and light intensity could be modelled with a , on average, of 0.83 and 0.93 respectively. Using recursive parameter estimation techniques, the time-variant response of animal growth to food supply could be predicted on-line with a prediction error of a maximum of 5%, three to seven days ahead depending on the type of feeding schedule. We argue that the potential conflicts between the environmental, financial and biological pressures on sustainable poultry production can be resolved through the development of integrated management systems using process control techniques.
Achieving adequate fertility is essential in any dairy unit, but is compromised by genetic selection for increased yield. Selection has altered the somatotrophic axis and resulted in cows which mobilise more body tissue for milk production in early lactation, thus prolonging both the depth and duration of the post partum negative energy balance. Poor energy status is reflected in altered metabolic parameters including raised urea and decreased insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I) and insulin concentrations, which adversely affect ovarian cyclicity and early embryo survival. Attempts to optimise the diet in terms of energy and protein content have generally been aimed at increasing milk production further rather than improving fertility. Advances in biosensor technology now provide us with the opportunity to monitor production, fertility and health parameters of each cow. Integration of this information should improve the timing for inseminations and could assist in selecting diets more suited to the needs of the individual cow. Genetic selection may in future be used to produce cows optimised for a particular type of management system. In both cases we need a greater understanding of the rules governing nutrient partitioning at different stages of the cows' life cycle to ensure that diets selected are cost effective and achieve an appropriate balance in promoting production, reproduction and health.
Livestock systems are comprised of sets of complex interconnected processes each with their own outputs eg growth, yield, animal health, welfare and environmental emissions. Livestock management decisions are currently based almost entirely on the judgement and experience of the stockman who has to estimate or guess the likely effects of any control action.
An integrated management system for a livestock production enterprise would be one which controlled all relevant processes. For example if the purpose of the system was to regulate nutritional input in order to control animal growth and pollutant emissions, the controller would calculate input values which would enable growth and emissions criteria to be satisfied simultaneously.
The essential components of an integrated management system are sensors and models. Developments in sensor technology will make available increasing amounts of information relevant to monitoring animals and their environment. Model-based control systems are particularly appropriate for accommodating the variability of most livestock production processes. Models exist for most of the economically important and scientifically interesting processes in livestock production. However the requirements of a process model that is to be incorporated into a controller are different from those of a model which is aimed at demonstrating understanding of the process. Areas where process models are lacking include those involving interactions between production and environmental factors.
The pre-requisites for nutritional management of dairy cows are information about how much feed is being consumed as well as the nutrients that are being derived from that feed. Studies of feed intake and nutrient supply have been limited by difficult experimental techniques, particularly with grazing animals. The models derived from much earlier work are of only general applicability and there is a need for more site-specific information in order to benefit further from conceptual advances.
We have adopted a different approach to studying herbage intake and nutrient supply, using less-invasive approaches as well as techniques that monitor more accessible aspects of these processes, such as jaw movements. These techniques have a major advantage, in addition to their value as research tools, because they could translate directly into commercial applications in on-farm monitoring. The use of diagnostics and behavioural recording is well explored in relation to health monitoring; here we argue for its potential to advance the application of knowledge about grazing and nutrition. We will illustrate this approach using our experiences in measuring grazing behaviour, using IGER behaviour recorders and assessing rumen function, using a series of non-invasive techniques.
The IGER grazing behaviour recorder allows us to record jaw movements and hence grazing and ruminating time and bite dynamics. It also allows the recording of steps and is now being developed to incorporate non-invasive rumen state sensors. It has made a major contribution to our understanding of the foraging strategies of grazing animals and their effect on herbage intake. This technology has the potential to be developed for on-farm monitoring of foraging behaviour providing valuable inputs to the prediction of herbage intake, in decision support systems for grazing.
The introduction of concept of protein degradation and microbial synthesis in the rumen are significant advances in protein rationing schemes. However, real progress has been limited because the lack of consistent experimental results means that models have little relevance to specific farm situations. We foresee considerable opportunities to monitor products of rumen degradation and synthesis that appear in milk (e.g. odd-chain fatty acids) or breath (e.g. sulphides).
Taken together these technologies open the possibilities of an entirely new approach to nutritional management of dairy cows, with site-specific recommendations based on information gathered using new sensors that are incorporated into computerised feeding equipment and milking parlours.
This review considers the likely impact of changing consumer requirements, political pressure, economics and technological advances on the dairy production industry of the future. The vision is one of diverse strategies of production, the majority of milk being produced from cows managed technologically with much greater regard for welfare, with a number of ‘romantic’ strategies such as organic, extensive or dual-purpose production supplying niche markets. The important novel feature of the technological strategy will be an escape from the intensive twelve-month lactation cycle to extended lactations of, say, eighteen months, since this will reduce the number of times the cow is exposed to metabolic and other stresses associated with parturition, peak lactation and rebreeding.
Livestock production under Northern European conditions can affect water, air and soil. Examples of the possible environmental effects on water are fish kills or microbial contamination, if solid manure, slurry, “dirty water” or silage effluent are collected, stored, handled or spread inappropriately. Examples of the possible environmental effects on air are emissions of ammonia (which can lead to acidification and, after subsequent deposition, to eutrophication), the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide, odours and particulates.
In the case of water pollution, good management practices using existing technology are usually adequate for preventing most environmental impacts. This often requires storage during periods when conditions are unsuitable for spreading, followed by carefully controlled application. However, for relatively dilute effluents (such as dairy farm “dirty water”), it may be more cost-effective to use different approaches, such as waste minimisation and/or continuous treatment and land spreading. Recent research results are reviewed and compared in this paper, to identify ways in which farmers can prevent water pollution at least cost. The potential implications of such measures on further reductions in the annual numbers of pollution incidents are discussed in conjunction with the impacts of different regulatory and punitive approaches.
In the case of preventing air pollution, although good management can achieve much, there is a need for new technology to back it up. Existing ammonia abatement techniques are mostly expensive and farmer-unfriendly. In the longer term, changes to the animals' diet should hold the greater potential for abatement, not only of ammonia emissions but also of methane emissions. Reducing one form of pollution can often increase another, so an integrated approach to solving pollution problems is necessary.
This experiment was conducted to evaluate the effect of adding some herbal feed additives (HF A) [thyme (T, Thymus Vulgaris L.), dianthus (D, Delphinum Ajaews), and fennel (F, Foeniculum Vulgare L.)] at a level of 10g/kg to Japanese quail diets on performance and some metabolic functions. Adding HFA to the control diet improved (P<0.05) body gain, feed intake and feed conversion (feed/gain) efficiency. The birds fed dietary F additive exhibited the best (P<0.05) values of these parameters during the entire period (0 to 6 weeks of age), compared with other dietary treatments. There was an improvement (P<0.05) in total protein, globulin, and albumin for birds fed dietary T or F at six weeks of age. Birds fed on dietary F recorded the lowest (P<0.05) value of these components compared with other dietary treatments.
This study compared the effect of feeding AmyPlus, a moist feed, as opposed to rolled wheat on the yield and composition of milk from dairy cows consuming grass silage based total mixed ration (TMR). Seventy-two Holstein-Friesian cows were distributed into AmyPlus (Treatment) and Wheat (Control) groups and loose housed on straw in an open shed. Each kg Wheat based concentrate contained 345g rolled wheat, 230g rapeseed meal, 115g sugarbeet pulp, 115g Molaferm 20, 115g soybean meal, 56g barley straw and 24g vitamin-minerals. In contrast, each kg AmyPlus based concentrate contained 501g AmyPlus (480g DM /kg), 105g rapeseed meal, 126g sugarbeet pulp, 126g Molaferm 20, 84g soybean meal, 41g barley straw and 17g vitamin-minerals. Here, AmyPlus was loaded directly into the mixer wagon to prepare fresh AmyPlus based TMR with a silage to concentrate ratio of 68:32. Each TMR was fed once daily to the corresponding group of cows also receiving 2kg of Distillers’ grains per cow in the parlour during milking. Daily milk yield and composition was recorded from November 1999 to February 2000. The overall daily Dry matter intake (DMI) of each TMR per cow remained uniform (20.19 vs 20.15 kg for Treatment and Control group respectively) across both groups. Daily milk yield and total cell counts per cow did not vary significantly (P>0.05) between groups during various months. While, milk fat and protein contents were greater in Treatment than Control group during each month, the differences were significant (P<0.05) only during November and December for fat and in January for protein. On average, the Treatment group tended to show a non-significant increase (P>0.05) in daily milk yield per cow by 0.144 kg than the Control group. The fat (46.2 vs 43.7) and protein (34.5 vs 33.5) contents in g /kg milk were also increased significantly (P<0.001) in Treatment compared with Control group. Total cell counts did not vary significantly (P>0.05) and remained within the acceptable limits. The cows consuming AmyPlus maintained their health as indicated by their intake, production, cell counts and general appearance. It would appear that AmyPlus can replace rolled wheat in TMR. However, it may be necessary to evaluate the storage, economic and environmental implications of using such moist co-products in silage based dairy rations.
Reliable and affordable technology for collecting and managing livestock production process information is being developed. The advances in data measurement, collection and transfer technology enable us to retrieve information from one or more remote sites to be processed and managed centrally. This opens up the opportunity to advance from open loop, prescriptive production to closed loop systems where factors influencing the actual performance of animals are used to modify and improve their production parameters (feed, environment, medication). We strive from producing animals by predicting what is needed using outdated data, to measuring what is actually happening as they grow, processing this information and acting to optimise animal performance by modifying production parameters in real time.
This paper describes commercially available systems that make possible the retrieval, collection, processing and distribution of near real time production information. Various aspects of production management using this technology are discussed, and examples of how it can be applied to monitor water usage, how it relates to pig performance and how energy usage can be influenced, are considered.
The dairy industry has continued to innovate to meet the needs of the consumers' specification of milk at a low price, of good hygienic quality and with rising expectations of animal welfare. The introduction of robotic milking offers the opportunity for the cost effective deployment of novel sensors for a variety of milk analytes. Traditional methods of monitoring health changes in animals are based entirely on the human senses. However, in modern milking systems humans rarely have enough time to see the cows to observe for signs of ill health, the extreme case is that of robotic milking. Novel sensors will allow closed loop control systems where the early detection of deviations from optimal performance will enable the farm manager to make management decisions before damage to potential milk yields is irreversible. Where a biological model already exists, for example, in the prediction of ovulation with milk progesterone analysis, rapid progress is being made towards an automated prediction system. Integrated management systems for dairy cows will not only have the traditional goals of efficient milk production but can also be tuned to reduce polluting outputs of ammonia, phosphorus and methane. The main metabolic markers in milk to be monitored are urea, fat, ketones and protein. The detection of mastitis can be achieved by the development of sensor systems to detect enzyme markers of inflammatory response such as Nagase. Multi-disciplinary research is needed to develop integrated management systems drawing all the different elements of dairy cow management into a single system. The major cause of death in dairy cows is dystocia and monitoring systems are needed to ensure that parturition is better managed.
This paper concentrates on livestock production systems by introducing sustainable housing characteristics, and the type of information required to make an informed choice on environmentally sound materials and systems. It then compares energy use in two contrasting beef cattle systems, one a conventional straw-bedded court and roofed silo, with feed delivered by a side-delivery wagon, and the other a roofless woodchip corral and earth-bank silo, with feed delivered by fore-end loader. The woodchip corral system requires 70% less energy than the conventional bedded court, when the total energy inputs are analysed for preparation of the building materials, construction of the livestock accommodation with associated feed and waste storage, and manufacture and operation of machinery. However, when energy used in feed production is included this dominates the energy budget, accounting for 60% of all energy used in the conventional bedded court, and 85% of energy used in the woodchip corral system.
The agricultural industry, particularly the livestock section, has been beset by difficulties in recent years, with the wettest year since 1776, the lowest commodity prices since the 1930's in many sectors, and by the widespread outbreak of ‘foot and mouth’ disease (F&M). This epidemic renewed fears for the future in an industry that was just beginning to see a glimmer of hope for better times ahead after many years of depression, with the OECD forecasting in early 2001 that world agricultural markets were poised for a ‘significant recovery‘.
Following what with hindsight can be thought of as a ‘golden period’ in the early 1990's, things began to go really wrong in the livestock sector after the BSE crisis in 1996. The problems were exacerbated by many other ‘external economic’ pressures in the late 1990's - in particular the high value of the pound and its effect on trade and market prices, the economic problems in other parts of the world (particularly in South East Asia and the former Eastern bloc), and an oversupplied European food market (particularly for meat and dairy products). By the late 1990's these ‘macro’ pressures were affecting all livestock sectors and if things were not bad enough, the spectre of ‘disease’ was about to make matters worse, beginning with the outbreak of classical swine fever in the pig industry in 2000.
The downward pressure on market prices and the monetary losses have also brought into focus the structural changes that are sorely needed throughout the livestock production, and meat processing/marketing supply chains in Britain. It has been apparent (ignoring the international situation) since the late 1980's, following the more rapid changes that have occurred in the final domestic consumer market, that these have been needed and they are now essential if the industry is to remain competitive in the 21st century.
While preparing to write a vision of pig production in the UK, the fragility of crystal ball gazing became apparent, when in February 2001, the nightmare scenario of Foot and Mouth disease broke. The problem appears to have started on a pig farm using swill feed in Northumberland and within weeks, primarily associated with the farmer's failure to report a problem and legal but uncontrolled sheep movement, Foot and Mouth Disease spread throughout the West of England, Wales and the South West of Scotland as well as closing a major slaughterhouse for adult pigs. The disease then spread into continental Europe, causing instant havoc to export markets for the UK and then over the whole of the European Union. Had the problem prevented Denmark from exporting globally for any period, this would have resulted in severe price depression in pig production in Europe. And all this in the year following East Anglia's savaging with Classical Swine Fever.
The Foot and Mouth epidemic in the UK is likely to have a long term impact on the country's export capabilities; already there are threats of five year bans from countries like the United States of America. Much will depend on whether natural wildlife, such as deer, have become infected and how effective we are at finding carrier animals.
Major increases in the rate of genetic improvement in the dairy herd have been obtained in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland since the mid 1980s. The implications of increases in genetic merit and the possible consequences of genotype X nutrition interactions on the efficiency of milk production systems are reviewed. The majority of previous studies with dairy cattle of moderate genetic merit suggest little evidence of genotype X nutrition interactions across a range of nutritional and management regimes, with higher milk production of high merit cows largely accounted for by effects on nutrient partitioning. However, more recent results suggest a significant re-ranking of sires when evaluated under either intensive feeding systems or in systems with a high reliance on grazed pasture.
Under intensive feeding systems higher animal performance has been obtained with high merit cows across a range of concentrate inputs and feeding systems. However, recent results from the Langhill studies provide the first tentative evidence of a genotype X nutrition interaction, with significantly different regression coefficients between genetic merit (as assessed by pedigree index) and milk production, under either low or high forage diets. The implications of these results are that high merit cows may be unable to express their full genetic potential for milk production when offered a high forage (or low energy density) diet. Consequently, the influence of other factors which have a major effect on voluntary food intake, and hence nutrient intake, e.g. forage dry matter content and forage digestibility, may be relatively more important with high genetic merit dairy cows.
It is concluded that higher milk production in high merit cows is largely attributable to variation in partitioning of nutrients, rather than to changes in food intake or digestive efficiency. Consequently, it is important fully to assess the animal performance and welfare implications of maintaining high genetic merit dairy cows under systems which may limit nutrient intake, e.g. under high forage regimes involving a high reliance on grazed or conserved forage. The major challenge for research and dairy herd management is to increase food intake with grass- and/or grass silage-based diets, thereby reducing the need for high levels of concentrates input to prevent excessive body condition loss with high genetic merit dairy cows in early lactation.
Environmental enrichment can significantly improve poultry welfare, productivity and profitability by reducing the expression of harmful behaviours, like fear or feather pecking. However, some studies have yielded inconsistent results and many so-called enrichment stimuli elicited little or no interest. This probably reflected the wide array of stimuli used and the paucity of thought given to what a chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) might find enriching. Clearly, the design of enrichment devices required more critical thought. Our immediate objectives were to establish chickens' specific preferences and thereby guide the development of practical enrichment strategies. First, we established that chicks showed increased use of an environment when it was enriched with simple, manipulable objects. Our use of video playback to assess chickens' responses to specific attributes of selected images then revealed that visual enrichment stimuli should incorporate movement, brightness, colour, and moderate complexity. Next, a survey revealed that almost 50% of the farmers who replied routinely played the radio to their flocks and that the perceived benefits included reduced aggression, improved health and increased productivity. Finally, we showed that a simple device consisting of a bunch of white strings is an extremely attractive pecking stimulus for chicks and adults of various strains of laying hens. Rather than rapidly losing interest in the devices the birds pecked progressively more at them with repeated exposure in short-term experiments. Furthermore, they were still being pecked at 17 and 2 weeks after their incorporation in the home pens of groups of 1-day-old chicks and adult hens, respectively. Even more encouragingly, the provision of string reduced feather pecking in birds of an experimental line showing high levels of this behavioural vice. It also reduced feather damage in caged layers at a commercial farm. The provision of string devices increases the opportunity for the birds to engage in behaviours that are fundamental to their nature, such as exploration and foraging. By maintaining lengthy interest and apparently reducing the expression of damaging feather pecking, string devices also satisfy other critical requirements of effective environmental enrichment. They have the added advantages of low cost, ready availability, ease of installation, and durability.
Collectively, these findings strongly support the hypotheses that extraneous stimulation is important to chickens and that the provision of appropriate visual, auditory and tactile enrichment stimuli can improve their welfare. Projecting images onto the walls of a poultry house could perhaps provide an additional source of visual stimulation, but this requires further investigation. Playing the radio was not only beneficial in terms of welfare and performance but it is probably one of the easiest and most practicable ways of enriching the environment for the birds and the stockpersons. The routine incorporation of string devices in rearing and laying cages is also considered likely to reduce boredom and feather pecking and thereby improve the birds' welfare and productivity. In conclusion, I wholeheartedly recommend the integrated application of string pecking devices and auditory enrichment.