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Mechanistic models (MMs) have served as causal pathway analysis and ‘decision-support’ tools within animal production systems for decades. Such models quantitatively define how a biological system works based on causal relationships and use that cumulative biological knowledge to generate predictions and recommendations (in practice) and generate/evaluate hypotheses (in research). Their limitations revolve around obtaining sufficiently accurate inputs, user training and accuracy/precision of predictions on-farm. The new wave in digitalization technologies may negate some of these challenges. New data-driven (DD) modelling methods such as machine learning (ML) and deep learning (DL) examine patterns in data to produce accurate predictions (forecasting, classification of animals, etc.). The deluge of sensor data and new self-learning modelling techniques may address some of the limitations of traditional MM approaches – access to input data (e.g. sensors) and on-farm calibration. However, most of these new methods lack transparency in the reasoning behind predictions, in contrast to MM that have historically been used to translate knowledge into wisdom. The objective of this paper is to propose means to hybridize these two seemingly divergent methodologies to advance the models we use in animal production systems and support movement towards truly knowledge-based precision agriculture. In order to identify potential niches for models in animal production of the future, a cross-species (dairy, swine and poultry) examination of the current state of the art in MM and new DD methodologies (ML, DL analytics) is undertaken. We hypothesize that there are several ways via which synergy may be achieved to advance both our predictive capabilities and system understanding, being: (1) building and utilizing data streams (e.g. intake, rumination behaviour, rumen sensors, activity sensors, environmental sensors, cameras and near IR) to apply MM in real-time and/or with new resolution and capabilities; (2) hybridization of MM and DD approaches where, for example, a ML framework is augmented by MM-generated parameters or predicted outcomes and (3) hybridization of the MM and DD approaches, where biological bounds are placed on parameters within a MM framework, and the DD system parameterizes the MM for individual animals, farms or other such clusters of data. As animal systems modellers, we should expand our toolbox to explore new DD approaches and big data to find opportunities to increase understanding of biological systems, find new patterns in data and move the field towards intelligent, knowledge-based precision agriculture systems.
Sub-acute ruminal acidosis (SARA) can reduce the production efficiency and impair the welfare of cattle, potentially in all production systems. The aim of this study was to characterise measurable postmortem observations from divergently managed intensive beef finishing farms with high rates of concentrate feeding. At the time of slaughter, we obtained samples from 19 to 20 animals on each of 6 beef finishing units (119 animals in total) with diverse feeding practices, which had been subjectively classified as being high risk (three farms) or low risk (three farms) for SARA on the basis of the proportions of barley, silage and straw in the ration. We measured the concentrations of histamine, lipopolysaccharide (LPS), lactate and other short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in ruminal fluid, LPS and SCFA in caecal fluid. We also took samples of the ventral blind sac of the rumen for histopathology, immunohistopathology and gene expression. Subjective assessments were made of the presence of lesions on the ruminal wall, the colour of the lining of the ruminal wall and the shape of the ruminal papillae. Almost all variables differed significantly and substantially among farms. Very few pathological changes were detected in any of the rumens examined. The animals on the high-risk diets had lower concentrations of SCFA and higher concentrations of lactate and LPS in the ruminal fluid. Higher LPS concentrations were found in the caecum than the rumen but were not related to the risk status of the farm. The diameters of the stratum granulosum, stratum corneum and of the vasculature of the papillae, and the expression of the gene TLR4 in the ruminal epithelium were all increased on the high-risk farms. The expression of IFN-γ and IL-1β and the counts of cluster of differentiation 3 positive and major histocompatibility complex class two positive cells were lower on the high-risk farms. High among-farm variation and the unbalanced design inherent in this type of study in the field prevented confident assignment of variation in the dependent variables to individual dietary components; however, the CP percentage of the total mixed ration DM was the factor that was most consistently associated with the variables of interest. Despite the strong effect of farm on the measured variables, there was wide inter-animal variation.
Growth restriction caused by postnatal undernutrition increases risk for cardiovascular disease in adulthood with the potential to induce arrhythmogenesis. Thus, the purpose was to determine if undernutrition during development produced arrhythmias at rest and when stressed with dobutamine in adulthood. Mouse dams were fed (CON: 20% protein), or low-protein (LP: 8%) diet before mating. A cross-fostering model was used where pups nursed by dams fed LP diet in early [EUN; postnatal day (PN) 1–10], late (LUN; PN11–21) and whole (PUN; 1–21) phases of postnatal life. Weaned pups were switched to CON diets for the remainder of the study (PN80). At PN80, body composition (magnetic resonance imaging), and quantitative electrocardiogram (ECG) measurements were obtained under 1% isoflurane anesthesia. After baseline ECG, an IP injection (1.5 µg/g body weight) of dobutamine was administered and ECG repeated. Undernutrition significantly (P<0.05) reduced body weight in LUN (22.68±0.88 g) and PUN (19.96±0.32 g) but not in CON (25.05±0.96 g) and EUN (25.28±0.9207 g). Fat mass decreased in all groups compared with controls (CON: 8.00±1.2 g, EUN: 6.32±0.65 g, LUN: 5.11±1.1 g, PUN: 3.90±0.25 g). Lean mass was only significantly reduced in PUN (CON: 17.99±0.26 g, EUN: 17.78±0.39 g, LUN: 17.34±0.33 g, PUN: 15.85±0.28 g). Absolute heart weights were significantly less from CON, with PUN having the smallest. ECG showed LUN had occurrences of atrial fibrillation; EUN had increases of 1st degree atrioventricular block upon stimulation, and PUN had increased risk for ventricular depolarization arrhythmias. CON did not display arrhythmias. Undernutrition in early life resulted in ventricular arrhythmias under stressed conditions, but undernutrition occurring in later postnatal life there is an increased incidence of atrial arrhythmias.
In ewe lambs, acceleration of growth and accumulation of both muscle and fat leads to earlier sexual maturity and better reproductive performance. The next stage in the development of this theme is to test whether these aspects of growth in young ewes affect milk production in their first lactation and the growth of their first progeny. We studied 75 young Merino ewes that had known phenotypic values for depth of eye muscle (EMD) and fat (FAT), and known Australian Sheep Breeding Values for post-weaning weight (PWT) and depths of eye muscle (PEMD) and fat (PFAT). They lambed for the first time at 1 year of age. Their lambs were weighed weekly from birth to weaning at 10 weeks to determine live weight gain and weaning weight. Progeny birth weight was positively associated with live weight gain and weaning weight (P<0.001). The PWT of the mothers was positively associated with birth weight (P<0.01), live weight gain and weaning weight of the progeny (P<0.05); however, these progeny traits were not influenced by EMD, FAT, PEMD, PFAT of the mothers (P>0.05). The PWT of the sire was positively associated with live weight gain (P<0.05) and weaning weight of the progeny (P<0.01). At around day 20 postpartum, we measured milk production and milk composition (fat, protein, lactose, total solids). Milk production was influenced positively by birth type (single or twin; P<0.05) and negatively by birth weight (P<0.05), but not by mother phenotype or genotype, sire genotype of the mother or the sex of the progeny (P>0.05). The concentrations of fat, protein, lactose and total solids in the milk were not affected by the phenotype or genotype of the mothers or of the sires of the mothers, or by the sex of the progeny (P>0.05). We conclude that selection of young Merino ewes for better growth, and more rapid accumulation of muscle and fat, will lead to progeny that are heavier at birth, grow faster and are heavier at weaning. Moreover, milk production and composition do not seem to be affected by the genetic merit of the mother for post-weaning live weight or PEMD or PFAT. Therefore, Merino ewes can lamb at 1 year of age without affecting the production objectives of the Merino sheep industry.
Several studies have suggested that maternal lifestyle during pregnancy may influence long-term health of offspring by altering the offspring epigenome. Whether maternal leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) during pregnancy might have this effect is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between maternal LTPA during pregnancy and offspring DNA methylation. Participants were recruited from the Archive for Research on Child Health study. At enrollment, participants’ demographic information and self-reported LTPA during pregnancy were determined. High active participants (averaged 637.5 min per week of LTPA; n=14) were matched by age and race to low active participants (averaged 59.5 min per week LTPA; n=28). Blood spots were obtained at birth. Pyrosequencing was used to determine methylation levels of long interspersed nucleotide elements (LINE-1) (global methylation) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma (PPARγ), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator (PGC1-α), insulin-like growth factor 2 (IGF2), pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase, isozyme 4 (PDK4) and transcription factor 7-like 2 (TCF7L2). We found no differences between offspring of high active and low active groups for LINE-1 methylation. The only differences in candidate gene methylation between groups were at two CpG sites in the P2 promoter of IGF2; the offspring of low active group had significantly higher DNA methylation (74.70±2.25% methylation for low active v. 72.83±2.85% methylation for high active; P=0.045). Our results suggest no effect of maternal LTPA on offspring global and candidate gene methylation, with the exception of IGF2. IGF2 has been previously associated with regulation of physical activity, suggesting a possible role of maternal LTPA on regulation of offspring physical activity.
Introduction of biofortified cassava as school lunch can increase vitamin A intake, but may increase risk of other deficiencies due to poor nutrient profile of cassava. We assessed the potential effect of introducing a yellow cassava-based school lunch combined with additional food-based recommendations (FBR) on vitamin A and overall nutrient adequacy using Optifood (linear programming tool).
Cross-sectional study to assess dietary intakes (24 h recall) and derive model parameters (list of foods consumed, median serving sizes, food and food (sub)group frequency distributions, food cost). Three scenarios were modelled, namely daily diet including: (i) no school lunch; (ii) standard 5d school lunch with maize/beans; and (iii) 5d school lunch with yellow cassava. Each scenario and scenario 3 with additional FBR were assessed on overall nutrient adequacy using recommended nutrient intakes (RNI).
Primary-school children (n 150) aged 7–9 years.
Best food pattern of yellow cassava-based lunch scenario achieved 100 % RNI for six nutrients compared with no lunch (three nutrients) or standard lunch (five nutrients) scenario. FBR with yellow cassava and including small dried fish improved nutrient adequacy, but could not ensure adequate intake of fat (52 % of average requirement), riboflavin (50 % RNI), folate (59 % RNI) and vitamin A (49 % RNI).
Introduction of yellow cassava-based school lunch complemented with FBR potentially improved vitamin A adequacy, but alternative interventions are needed to ensure dietary adequacy. Optifood is useful to assess potential contribution of a biofortified crop to nutrient adequacy and to develop additional FBR to address remaining nutrient gaps.
Thermoelectric (TE) materials have gained renewed interests in last decades for both power generation and energy conservation from waste-heat harvesting. Research in the discovery of best TE materials such as, bulk materials, complex structures, and low dimensional play crucial role to achieve high efficiency TE materials. Wide bandgap materials like ZnO can be promising candidate for high efficiency TE power generation owing to its low-cost, nontoxicity, and stability at high temperatures. In this paper, room temperature TE properties of thin film ZnO grown by metal organic vapor deposition (MOCVD) are reported. TE properties of thin film GaN are also studied as reference to that of thin film ZnO. Moreover, high resolution x-ray diffraction (HRXRD), room temperature photoluminescence (PL) with deep ultraviolet (DUV) spectroscopy (excitation at 248nm), hall effect, and thermal gradient methods have been employed to investigate the effect of structural, optical, electrical, and thermal properties of the samples, respectively. The effect of doping concentrations and structural defects on Seebeck coefficients of thin film ZnO are systematically studied and discussed in this work.
An experiment was conducted to examine whether increased CLA in milk of dairy cows fed fresh pasture compared with alfalfa and corn silages was because of ruminal or endogenous synthesis. Eight Holsteins were fed a total mixed ration using alfalfa and corn silages as the forage source in confinement or grazed in a replicated crossover design. The proportion of total fatty acids as CLA (primarily c9, t11-18:2) in g/100 g was 0.44 v. 0.28 in ruminal digesta, 0.89 v. 0.53 in omasal digesta and 0.71 v. 1.06 in milk during confinement feeding and grazing, respectively. Blood plasma CLA was 0.54 v. 1.05 mg/l for the two treatments, respectively. The increased concentration of CLA in milk with grazing likely resulted from increased synthesis through desaturation of t11-18:1 in the mammary gland.
Eimeria is a common genus of apicomplexan parasites that infect diverse vertebrates, most notably poultry, causing serious disease and economic loss. Like all apicomplexans, eimerians have a complex life cycle characterized by asexual divisions that amplify the parasite population in preparation for sexual reproduction. This can be divided into three events: gametocytogenesis, producing gametocytes from merozoites; gametogenesis, producing microgametes and macrogametes from gametocytes; and fertilization of macrogametes by microgametes, producing diploid zygotes with ensuing meiosis completing the sexual phase. Sexual development in Eimeria depends on the differential expression of stage-specific genes, rather than presence or absence of sex chromosomes. Thus, it involves the generation of specific structures and, implicitly, storage of proteins and regulation of protein expression in macrogametes, in preparation for fertilization. In Eimeria, the formation of a unique, resilient structure, the oocyst wall, is essential for completion of the sexual phase and parasite transmission. In this review, we piece together the molecular events that underpin sexual reproduction in Eimeria and use additional details from analogous events in Plasmodium to fill current knowledge gaps. The mechanisms governing sexual stage formation and subsequent fertilization may represent targets for counteracting parasite transmission.
In most countries, male pigs are physically castrated soon after birth to reduce the risk of boar taint and to avoid behaviours such as fighting and mounting. However, entire male pigs are more feed efficient and deposit less fat than barrows. In addition, many animal welfare organizations are lobbying for a cessation of castration, with a likelihood that this could lead to inferior pork unless an alternative method is used to control boar taint. An alternative to physical castration is immunization against gonadotrophin releasing factor (GnRF) which allows producers to capitalize on the superior feed efficiency and carcass characteristics of boars without the risk of boar taint. From a physiological perspective, immunized pigs are entire males until shortly after the second dose, typically given 4 to 6 weeks before slaughter. Following full immunization, there is a temporary suppression of testicular function and a hormonal status that resembles that of a barrow. Nutrient requirements will be different in these two phases, before and after full immunization. Given that there have been few published studies comparing the lysine requirements of entire males and barrows in contemporary genotypes, it is useful to use gilt requirements as a benchmark. A series of meta-analyses comparing anti-GnRF immunized boars and physical castrates and use of nutritional models suggest that the lysine requirement of entire males before the second immunization is 5% higher than for gilts, from 25 to 50 kg BW, and by 8% from 50 to 95 kg. Given that the penalty in growth performance for having inadequate dietary lysine is greater in males than in gilts or barrows, it is important to ensure that lysine requirements are met to obtain the maximum benefits of entire male production during this phase. After the second immunization, the lysine requirement of immunized males decreases and may become more like that of barrows. In addition, a consistent effect of full immunization is a marked increase in voluntary feed intake from about 10 days after the second dose. Putting these together, the estimated lysine requirement, expressed in terms of diet composition, falls to 94% of the gilt level. Although general principles can be described now, further research is needed to fully define the lysine requirements of immunized boars. It is important that the temporal pattern of tissue deposition rates and feed intake be explored to be incorporated into models to predict nutrient requirements over the period of rapidly changing metabolism.
We review the evidence that the ultra-compact dwarf (UCD) galaxies we recently discovered in the Fornax Cluster form a new, previously unknown class of galaxies and we discuss possible scenarios for their formation. We then present recent results that UCDs are also present in the Virgo Cluster, and that there is a much larger than expected population of fainter UCDs in the Fornax Cluster. The size and properties of this population may lead us to revise our original ‘galaxy threshing’ hypothesis for the formation of UCDs.
We have used high-resolution, HST WFC3/IR, near-infrared imaging to conduct a detailed bulge-disk decomposition of the morphologies of ≃ 200 of the most massive (M* > 1011 M⊙) galaxies at 1 < z < 3 in the CANDELS-UDS field. We find that, while such massive galaxies at low redshift are generally bulge-dominated, at redshifts 1<z<2 they are predominantly mixed bulge+disk systems, and by z > 2 they are mostly disk-dominated. Interestingly, we find that while most of the quiescent galaxies are bulge-dominated, a significant fraction (25–40%) of the most quiescent galaxies, have disk-dominated morphologies. Thus, our results suggest that the physical mechanisms which quench star-formation activity are not simply connected to those responsible for the morphological transformation of massive galaxies.