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Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) able to describe population differences can be used for important applications in livestock, including breed assignment of individual animals, authentication of mono-breed products and parentage verification among several other applications. To identify the most discriminating SNPs among thousands of markers in the available commercial SNP chip tools, several methods have been used. Random forest (RF) is a machine learning technique that has been proposed for this purpose. In this study, we used RF to analyse PorcineSNP60 BeadChip array genotyping data obtained from a total of 2737 pigs of 7 Italian pig breeds (3 cosmopolitan-derived breeds: Italian Large White, Italian Duroc and Italian Landrace, and 4 autochthonous breeds: Apulo-Calabrese, Casertana, Cinta Senese and Nero Siciliano) to identify breed informative and reduced SNP panels using the mean decrease in the Gini Index and the Mean Decrease in Accuracy parameters with stability evaluation. Other reduced informative SNP panels were obtained using Delta, Fixation index and principal component analysis statistics, and their performances were compared with those obtained using the RF-defined panels using the RF classification method and its derived Out Of Bag rates and correct prediction proportions. Therefore, the performances of a total of six reduced panels were evaluated. The correct assignment of the animals to its breed was close to 100% for all tested approaches. Porcine chromosome 8 harboured the largest number of selected SNPs across all panels. Many SNPs were included in genomic regions in which previous studies identified signatures of selection or genes (e.g. ESR1, KITL and LCORL) that could contribute to explain, at least in part, phenotypically or economically relevant traits that might differentiate cosmopolitan and autochthonous pig breeds. Random forest used as preselection statistics highlighted informative SNPs that were not the same as those identified by other methods. This might be due to specific features of this machine learning methodology. It will be interesting to explore if the adaptation of RF methods for the identification of selection signature regions could be able to describe population-specific features that are not captured by other approaches.
Performance and feeding behaviour traits in growing pigs could be affected by social interaction effects when animals are raised in group. So, properly knowing the genetic correlations between direct and social interaction effects among performance and feeding behaviour traits could improve the accuracy of the genetic evaluations. Our aim was to explore the role of feeding behaviour traits (FBT) and indirect genetic effects (IGEs) in the genetic evaluations of growing pigs. Thus, genetic parameters were estimated for production traits (PT): average daily gain, average daily feed consumption, feed conversion ratio and backfat thickness; as well as for FBT: average daily feeding rate, average daily feeding frequency, average daily occupation time and average daily time between consecutive visits. Traits were recorded in 1144 Duroc pigs during the fattening period. Two bivariate models were fitted: classic animal model and an animal model fitting IGE. Estimations were done following Bayesian procedures. Heritability estimates obtained with classic animal model for all studied traits were medium-high. The additional heritable variation captured by IGE supposed that the ratios of total genetic variance to phenotypic variance (T2) were higher than the heritability estimates obtained with the classic model, except for occupation time trait, when a lower value (0.20 ± 0.19) was estimated. This is due to a high and negative correlation between IGE and direct genetic effects (DGEs) of this particular trait (−0.78 ± 0.27). Results from classic animal model do not evidence a clear role of FBT to improve the accuracy of breeding value predictions for PT; only average daily feeding rate seems to show a positive correlation (around 0.50 to 0.60) with average daily gain, average daily feed consumption and backfat thickness. However, when IGE model was fitted, the number of estimates of genetic correlations between FBT and PT showing a relevant magnitude increased, generally for the correlations between IGE of FBT and DGE of PT; or particularly for the correlations between IGE of average daily feeding frequency, and the IGE of all the PT, except average daily gain. Thus, in evaluations using the animal model with IGE fitted, the inclusion of FBT could aid the improvement of the accuracy of breeding value predictions for PT. This is a consequence of the improved genetic relationships between traits that can be fitted when considering such models.
A key concern in beef production is how to improve carcass and meat quality traits. Identifying the genomic regions and biological pathways that contribute to explaining variability in these traits is of great importance for selection purposes. In this study, genome wide-association (GWAS) and pathway-based analyses of carcass traits (age at slaughter (AS), carcass weight (CW), carcass daily gain (CDG), conformation score and rib-eye muscle area) and meat quality traits (pH, Warner-Bratzler shear force, purge loss, cooking loss and colour parameters (lightness, redness, yellowness, chroma, hue)) were conducted using genotype data from the ‘GeneSeek Genomic Profiler Bovine LD’ array in a cohort of 1166 double-muscled Piemontese beef cattle. The genome wide-association analysis was based on the GRAMMAR-GC approach and identified 37 significant single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which were associated with 12 traits (P<5 × 10−5). In particular, 14 SNPs associated with CW, CDG and AS were located at 38.57 to 38.94 Mb on Bos taurus autosome 6 and mapped within four genes, that is, Leucine Aminopeptidase 3, Family with Sequence Similarity 184 Member B, Non-SMC Condensin I Complex Subunit G and Ligand-Dependent Nuclear Receptor Corepressor-Like. Strong pairwise linkage disequilibrium was found in this region. For meat quality traits, most associations were 1 SNP per trait, except for a signal on BTA25 (at ~11.96 Mb), which was significant for four of the five meat colour parameters assessed. Gene-set enrichment analyses yielded significant results for six traits (right-sided hypergeometric test, false discovery rate <0.05). In particular, several pathways related to transmembrane transport (i.e., oxygen, calcium, ion and cation) were overrepresented for meat colour parameters. The results obtained provide useful information for genomic selection for beef production and quality in the Piemontese breed.
Improving robustness of farm animals is one of the goals in breeding programmes. However, robustness is a complex trait and not measurable directly. The objective of this study was to quantify and characterize (elements of) robustness in growing pigs. Robustness can be analysed by examining the animal’s response to perturbations. Although the origin of perturbations may not be known, their effect on animal performance can be observed, for example, through changes in voluntary feed intake. A generic model and data analysis procedure was developed (1) to estimate the target trajectory of feed intake, which is the amount of feed that a pig desires to eat when it is not facing any perturbations; (2) to detect potential perturbations, which are deviations of feed intake from the estimated target trajectory; and (3) to characterize and quantify the response of the growing pigs to the perturbations using voluntary feed intake as response criterion. The response of a pig to a perturbation is characterized by four parameters. The start and end times of the perturbation are ‘imposed’ by the perturbing factor, while two other parameters describe the resistance and resilience potential of the pig. One of these describes the immediate reduction in daily feed intake at the start of the perturbation (i.e., a ‘resistance’ trait) while another parameter describes the capacity of the pig to adapt to the perturbation through compensatory feed intake to rejoin the target trajectory of feed intake (i.e., a ‘resilience’ trait). The procedure has been employed successfully to identify the target trajectory of feed intake in growing pigs and to quantify the pig’s response to a perturbation.
One of the most debated topics in pig production is the need to study, understand and change the production system in order to improve nutrient efficiency, becoming more environmentally friendly. The nitrogen excretion has highly deleterious effects on the environment, and it is necessary to develop tools that help to reduce the excretion of this compound without compromising productivity. Therefore, two models were generated to estimate the efficiency of weight gain in relation to excreted nitrogen in post-weaning piglets. Data for testing these models were obtained from previous master and PhD studies carried out at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Animal Science Laboratory using piglets in the post-weaning phase with results for performance and digestibility. The database that was constructed was composed of raw data from 10 studies carried out between 2000 and 2016, on a total of 726 piglets weaned at ages between 17 and 28 days, and to which 62 different treatments were applied. An exploratory analysis of the data was done by evaluating scatter plots and histograms, and variables representing different treatments were used in a stepwise multiple linear regression analysis, with the F-test used as the selection criterion. Two models were generated that either considered the nitrogen retained or not, to estimate the ratio between weight gain and excreted nitrogen using generalized linear model procedure. The authors analyzed the behavior of each variable to evaluate whether the equation generated was biologically coherent. Weight gain, dry matter intake, nitrogen intake, metabolizable energy intake, retained nitrogen and urinary nitrogen were all significant (P<0.001) variables in model I, and in model II the variable fecal nitrogen was also included. The models had high coefficients of determination (R2 of model I and II were 0.9013 and 0.8271, respectively), and the nitrogen ingested variable was the one that most strongly influenced growth efficiency. When the retained nitrogen variable was removed from the model, there was a reduction in the fit of the equations. It was possible to conclude that both of the two models generated could be applied and the amount of nitrogen ingested had the greatest influence on growth efficiency related to nitrogen excretion.
Rheological properties of digesta play a role in digesta passage kinetics through the gastrointestinal tract, in turn affecting nutrient absorption kinetics. Therefore, we studied the effects of diet viscosity on digesta passage and physicochemical properties in pigs. Twenty male growing pigs (35 kg body weight at the start) were assigned to one of five diets with increasing dietary concentrations of β-glucans (BG; from 0 % to 10 %), in exchange for maize starch. After a 17-day adaptation period, pigs were euthanised and the mean retention time (MRT) of digesta solids (TiO2) and liquids (Cr-EDTA) in the stomach, and proximal and distal half of the small intestine was quantified. In the stomach, the MRT of liquids, but not of solids, increased when dietary BG level increased (6 min per % dietary BG, P = 0.008 and R2 = 0.35). Concomitantly, stomach DM content (5 g/kg per % dietary BG, P < 0.001 and R2 = 0.53) and apparent digesta viscosity (56 Pa × s at 1/s shear rate per % dietary BG, P = 0.003 and R2 = 0.41) decreased. In the proximal half of the small intestine, no effects of dietary BG level were observed. In the distal half of the small intestine, water-binding capacity (WBC) of digesta increased (0.11 g/g digesta DM per % dietary BG, P = 0.028 and R2 = 0.24) and starch digestibility decreased (0.3% per % dietary BG, P = 0.034 and R2 = 0.23) when dietary BG level increased. In the colon, apparent digesta viscosity at 45/s shear rate increased (0.1 Pa × s per % dietary BG, P = 0.03 and R2 = 0.24) in the proximal half of the colon, and digesta WBC increased (0.06 g/g digesta DM per % dietary BG, P = 0.024 and R2 = 0.26) in the distal half of the colon when dietary BG level increased. To conclude, increasing dietary BG level caused the MRT of liquids, but not that of solids, to increase in the stomach, resulting in reduced separation of the solid and liquid digesta fractions. This caused dilution of the stomach content and reduction in digesta viscosity when dietary BG levels increased. Effects of dietary BG level on physicochemical properties in the proximal small intestine were absent and may have been due to a low DM content. The WBC of digesta in the distal small intestine and colon increased when dietary BG level increased, as did apparent digesta viscosity in the proximal colon. This likely reflects the concentration of BG in digesta when moving through the gastrointestinal tract.
The dietary inclusion of feed additives to improve the carcass characteristics of the final product is of great importance for the pork production chain. The aim of our study was to evaluate the effects of the association of ractopamine (RAC) and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) on the performance traits of finishing pigs during the last 26 days prior to slaughter. In total, 810 commercial hybrid barrows were used. Animals were distributed among treatments according to a randomised block design in a 3 × 3 factorial arrangement, with three RAC levels (0, 5 or 10 ppm) and three CLA levels (0, 0.3 or 0.6%). Pigs fed the diet with 5 ppm RAC had higher average daily feed intake (ADFI) (2.83 kg; P < 0.05) when compared with those fed 10 ppm RAC and the control diet (2.75 and 2.74 kg, respectively). Lower ADFI values (P < 0.01) were observed with the diets containing CLA compared with the control diet with no CLA (2.73 and 2.75 v. 2.85 kg/day, respectively). The average daily weight gain of pigs fed 5 and 10 ppm RAC was +148 and +173 g/dayhigher (P < 0.001), respectively, than those fed the control diet. Dietary RAC levels influenced (P < 0.001) feed conversion ratio (FCR), which was reduced as RAC levels increased, with the pigs fed 10, 5 and 0 ppm RAC presenting FCR values of 2.57, 2.71 and 3.05, respectively. FCR also improved (P < 0.05) with the inclusion of 0.6% CLA relative to the control diet (2.70 v. 2.84, respectively). There was a significant interaction between CLA × RAC levels (P < 0.01) for final BW, loin eye area (LEA) (P < 0.05) and backfat thickness (BT) (P < 0.05). The treatments containing 10 ppm RAC + 0.6% or 0.3% CLA increased LEA and reduced BT. In conclusion, the level of 10 ppm inclusion of RAC increased the overall performance parameters of pigs and therefore improved production efficiency. The combined use of RAC and CLA promoted a lower feed conversion ratio as well as better quantitative carcass traits, as demonstrated by the higher LEA and lower BT. The dietary inclusion of CLA at 0.3% improved feed efficiency, however, without affecting LEA or BT yields.
Hyper-prolific sows nurse more piglets than less productive sows, putting a high demand on the nutrient supply for milk production. In addition, the high production level can increase mobilization from body tissues. The effect of increased dietary protein (104, 113, 121, 129, 139 and 150 g standardized ileal digestible (SID) CP/kg) on sow body composition, milk production and plasma metabolite concentrations was investigated from litter standardization (day 2) until weaning (day 24). Sow body composition was determined using the deuterium oxide dilution technique on days 3 and 24 postpartum. Blood samples were collected weekly, and milk samples were obtained on days 3, 10 and 17 of lactation. Litter average daily gain (ADG) peaked at 135 g SID CP/kg (P < 0.001). Sow BW and back fat loss reached a breakpoint at 143 and 127 g SID CP/kg (P < 0.001). Milk fat increased linearly with increasing dietary SID CP (P < 0.05), and milk lactose decreased until a breakpoint at 124 g SID CP/kg and 5.3% (P < 0.001) on day 17. The concentration of milk protein on day 17 increased until a breakpoint at 136 g SID CP/kg (5.0%; P < 0.001). The loss of body protein from day 3 until weaning decreased with increased dietary SID CP until it reached a breakpoint at 128 g SID CP/kg (P < 0.001). The body ash loss declined linearly with increasing dietary SID CP (P < 0.01), and the change in body fat was unaffected by dietary treatment (P=0.41). In early lactation (day 3 + day 10), plasma urea N (PUN) increased linearly after the breakpoint at 139 g SID CP/kg at a concentration of 3.8 mmol/l, and in late lactation (day 17 + day 24), PUN increased linearly after a breakpoint at 133 g SID CP/kg (P < 0.001) at a concentration of 4.5 mmol/l. In conclusion, the SID CP requirement for sows was estimated to 135 g/kg based on litter ADG, and this was supported by the breakpoints of other response variables within the interval 124 to 143 g/kg.
There is evidence indicating that using the current UK energy feeding system to ration the present sheep flocks may underestimate their nutrient requirements. The objective of the present study was to address this issue by developing updated maintenance energy requirements for the current sheep flocks and evaluating if these requirements were influenced by a range of dietary and animal factors. Data (n = 131) used were collated from five experiments with sheep (5 to 18 months old and 29.0 to 69.8 kg BW) undertaken at the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute of the UK from 2013 to 2017. The trials were designed to evaluate the effects of dietary type, genotype, physiological stage and sex on nutrient utilization and energetic efficiencies. Energy intake and output data were measured in individual calorimeter chambers. Energy balance (Eg) was calculated as the difference between gross energy intake and a sum of fecal energy, urine energy, methane energy and heat production. Data were analysed using the restricted maximum likelihood analysis to develop the linear relationship between Eg or heat production and metabolizable energy (ME) intake, with the effects of a range of dietary and animal factors removed. The net energy (NEm) and ME (MEm) requirements for maintenance derived from the linear relationship between Eg and ME intake were 0.358 and 0.486 MJ/kg BW0.75, respectively, which are 40% to 53% higher than those recommended in energy feeding systems currently used to ration sheep in the USA and the UK. Further analysis of the current dataset revealed that concentrate supplement, sire type or physiological stage had no significant effect on the derived NEm values. However, female lambs had a significantly higher NEm (0.352 v. 0.306 or 0.288 MJ/kg BW0.75) or MEm (0.507 v. 0.441 or 0.415 MJ/kg BW0.75) than those for male or castrated lambs. The present results indicate that using present energy feeding systems in the UK developed over 40 years ago to ration the current sheep flocks could underestimate maintenance energy requirements. There is an urgent need to update these systems to reflect the higher metabolic rates of the current sheep flocks.
Gut microbial colonization and immune response may be affected by milk feeding method. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of feeding high or low volumes of milk on fecal bacterial count, inflammatory response, blood metabolites and growth performance of Holstein female calves. Colostrum-fed calves (n = 48) were randomly assigned to either high milk (HM; n = 24) or low milk (LM; n = 24) feeding groups. Low milk-fed calves were fed pasteurized whole milk at 10% of BW until weaning. In HM group, milk was offered to calves at 20% of BW for the first 3 weeks of life. Then, milk allowance was decreased gradually to reach 10% of BW on day 26 and remained constant until weaning on day 51. Calves were allowed free access to water and starter throughout the experiment. Body weight was measured weekly, and blood samples were taken on days 14, 28 and 57. Fecal samples were collected on days 7, 14 and 21 of age for the measurement of selected microbial species. By design, HM calves consumed more nutrients from milk during the first 3 weeks and they were heavier than LM calves on days 21, 56 and 98. High milk-fed calves had greater serum glucose and triglyceride levels on day 14 with no significant difference between groups on days 28 and 57. Blood urea nitrogen was higher in LM calves on day 14, but it was lower in HM calves on day 28. Calves in LM group had significantly greater blood tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) than HM calves throughout the experiment. Serum amyloid A (SAA) concentration was higher in LM calves on day 14. However, HM calves showed higher levels of SAA at the time of weaning. Feeding high volumes of milk resulted in lower serum cortisol levels on days 14 and 28 but not at the time of weaning in HM calves compared to LM counterparts. Lactobacillus count was higher in feces sample of HM calves. Conversely, the numbers of Escherichia coli was greater in the feces of LM calves. Calves in HM group showed fewer days with fever and tended to have fewer days treated compared to LM group. In conclusion, feeding higher amounts of milk during the first 3 weeks of life improved gut microbiota, inflammation and health status and growth performance of Holstein dairy calves.
In the livestock industry, subcutaneous and visceral fat pads are considered as wastes, while intramuscular fat or marbling fat is essential for improving flavor and palatability of meat. Thus, strategies for optimizing fat deposition are needed. Intramuscular adipocytes provide sites for lipid deposition and marbling formation. In the present article, we addressed the origin and markers of intramuscular adipocyte progenitors – fibro-adipogenic progenitors (FAPs), as well as the latest progresses in mechanisms regulating the proliferation and differentiation of intramuscular FAPs. Finally, by targeting intramuscular FAPs, possible nutritional manipulations to improve marbling fat deposition are discussed. Despite recent progresses, the properties and regulation of intramuscular FAPs in livestock remain poorly understood and deserve further investigation.
Sow litter sizes have increased, subjecting more small piglets to intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR). Research on the development and growth of IUGR pigs is limited. The objective of this study was to compare the body composition and organ development of IUGR pigs at weaning, and to estimate their growth performance from birth to 30 kg. A total of 142 IUGR and 142 normal piglets were classified at birth based on their head morphology. At weaning, 20 IUGR and 20 normal piglets were collected, a whole-body dual-energy x-ray absorption scan was performed, and the piglets were euthanized for organ measurements. Body weight (BW) was measured weekly from birth to 30 kg, rectal temperature and whole-blood glucose levels were measured weekly from birth to weaning, and blood samples were collected at days 7, 14 and 21 for IGF-1 analysis. Results showed that IUGR pigs have a similar percentage of adipose tissue (P > 0.05) compared to normal pigs at 24 days of age. Organs were smaller (P < 0.001) in IUGR pigs than in normal pigs, whereas brain, liver, lungs and adrenal glands were relatively larger (P < 0.05) in relation to the BW of IUGR pigs. Average birth weight (BiW) of normal pigs was greater (P < 0.001) compared with IUGR pigs (1.38 v. 0.75 kg), and the average daily gain (ADG) of IUGR pigs was reduced from day 0 to 14, day 0 to 28 (weaning) and from weaning to 30 kg compared to normal pigs. From birth to weaning at day 28, IUGR piglets had a 72.9 g/day greater fractional ADG (FADG) in relation to their BiW (P < 0.05), but FADG did not differ (P > 0.05) from weaning to 30 kg. Rectal temperature of IUGR piglets was greater (P < 0.05) on day 7 compared with normal piglets, and, even though blood glucose levels were decreased (P < 0.001) in IUGR piglets at day 0, neither glucose nor IGF-1 concentrations differed (P > 0.05) between IUGR and normal piglets. In conclusion, IUGR piglets exhibited some relatively larger organs at weaning compared to normal pigs, but body composition was similar between IUGR and normal pigs. In addition, IUGR pigs had a reduced ADG from birth to 30 kg, and, although they exhibited a greater FADG during nursing, IUGR pigs still require six additional days to reach a BW of 30 kg in comparison to normal pigs.
Calcium homeostasis is crucial for the normal function of the organism. Parathyroid hormone, calcitriol and calcitonin play critical roles in the homeostatic regulation of calcium. Serotonin and prolactin have also been shown to be involved in the regulation of calcium homeostasis. In modern dairy cows, the endocrine pathways controlling calcium homeostasis during non-lactating and non-pregnant physiological states are unable to fully support the increased demand of calcium required for milk synthesis at the onset of lactation. This review describes different endocrine systems associated with the regulation of calcium homeostasis in mammalian species around parturition with special focus on dairy cows. Additionally, classic and novel strategies to reduce the incidence of hypocalcemia in parturient dairy cows are discussed.
Cows undergoing a negative energy balance (NEB) often experience a state of immunosuppression and are at greater risk of infectious diseases. The present study aimed to evaluate the impact of a folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement and feed restriction on several immune parameters. Sixteen cows at 45 ± 3 days in milk were assigned to 8 blocks of 2 cows each according to each cow’s milk production in the previous week, and within each block, the cows randomly received weekly intramuscular injections of either saline or 320 mg of folic acid and 10 mg of vitamin B12 for 5 weeks. During week 5, the cows were fed 75% of their ad libitum intake for 4 days. Blood samples were taken before the beginning of the experiment, just before feed restriction and after 3 days of feed restriction, in order to evaluate blood cell populations, the phagocytosis capacity and oxidative burst of polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs), the proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs) and β-hydroxybutyrate. The vitamin supplement did not affect any of the tested variables except milk fat and lactose content. Feed restriction reduced milk production and increased the concentration of NEFAs. Feed restriction did not affect blood cell populations but did reduce the percentage of PMN positive for oxidative burst after stimulation with phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate. The proliferation of PBMCs was reduced when the cell culture medium was supplemented with sera collected during the feed restriction. In conclusion, feed restriction affected the functions of PMN and PBMC and this effect was not prevented by the folic acid and vitamin B12 supplement. These results support the hypothesis that the greater risk of infectious diseases in cows experiencing a NEB is related to impaired immune cell functions by high circulating concentration of NEFAs.
Enhancing the supply of arginine (Arg), a semi-essential amino acid, has positive effects on immune function in dairy cattle experiencing metabolic stress during early lactation. Our objective was to determine the effects of Arg supplementation on biomarkers of liver damage and inflammation in cows during early lactation. Six Chinese Holstein lactating cows with similar BW (508 ± 14 kg), body condition score (3.0), parity (4.0 ± 0), milk yield (30.6 ± 1.8 kg) and days in milk (20 ± days) were randomly assigned to three treatments in a replicated 3 × 3 Latin square design balanced for carryover effects. Each period was 21 days with 7 days for infusion and 14 days for washout. Treatments were (1) Control: saline; (2) Arg group: saline + 0.216 mol/day l-Arg; and (3) Alanine (Ala) group: saline + 0.868 mol/day l-Ala (iso-nitrogenous to the Arg group). Blood and milk samples from the experimental cows were collected on the last day of each infusion period and analyzed for indices of liver damage and inflammation, and the count and composition of somatic cells in milk. Compared with the Control, the infusion of Arg led to greater concentrations of total protein, immunoglobulin M and high density lipoprotein cholesterol coupled with lower concentrations of haptoglobin and tumor necrosis factor-α, and activity of aspartate aminotransferase in serum. Infusion of Ala had no effect on those biomarkers compared with the Control. Although milk somatic cell count was not affected, the concentration of granulocytes was lower in response to Arg infusion compared with the Control or Ala group. Overall, the biomarker analyses indicated that the supplementation of Arg via the jugular vein during early lactation alleviated inflammation and metabolic stress.
Implementing a photoperiod during incubation has been shown to be a potential next step to removing one more stressor for newly hatched poultry species. The distribution of hatch over time is a parameter that may be influenced by photoperiod that could benefit from a photoperiod but has not been studied at this time and is the objective of this paper. The impact on hatch rate for three strains of chicken, Barred Plymouth Rock (BR), Lohmann Brown (LB) and Lohmann Lite (LL), was measured following the provision of a 12L : 12D (12 h light : 12 h dark) photoperiod starting at 0, 9 or 17 days of incubation and compared with incubation in the dark. The cumulative number of chicks hatched eggs at four points in time (489, 498, 507 and 516 h of incubation) was analysed using repeated measures analysis in a 3 × 4 factorial arrangement of treatments. Repeated measures analysis was done to determine the main and interaction effects of photoperiod and bird strain, and a regression analysis was used to determine how these effects evolved over time. Lohmann Brown embryos provided a 12L : 12D photoperiod throughout incubation were first to reach 50% of total chicks hatched and rate of hatch from 50% to 75% of total chicks hatched as well. As the LB chicks did not begin to hatch earlier or finish later, the LB strain was the most synchronised when provided a 12L : 12D photoperiod from the beginning of incubation. Similar results were found for LL, but no difference on the percentage hatched over time was found when provided the 12L : 12D photoperiod at the beginning of incubation or at day 9. The BR strain only showed a significant difference in hatch window synchronisation when provided a 12L : 12D photoperiod at day 9 of incubation. These results indicate that the strain of chicken impacts the hatch window, and each strain responds to a photoperiod during incubation differently. This information could be useful for hatchery managers to deal with different strains of chicken for incubation.
Some studies have shown that the excessive metabolic heat production is the primary cause for dead chicken embryos during late embryonic development. Increasing heat shock protein (HSP) expression and adjusting metabolism are important ways to maintain body homeostasis under heat stress. This study was conducted to investigate the effects of in ovo injection (IOI) of vitamin C (VC) at embryonic age 11th day (E11) on HSP and metabolic genes expression. A total of 320 breeder eggs were randomly divided into normal saline and VC injection groups. We detected plasma VC content and rectal temperature at chick’s age 1st day, and the mRNA levels of HSP and metabolic genes in embryonic livers at E14, 16 and 18, analysed the promoter methylation levels of differentially expressed genes and predicted transcription factors at the promoter regions. The results showed that IOI of VC significantly increased plasma VC content and decreased rectal temperature (P < 0.05). In ovo injection of VC significantly increased heat shock protein 60 (HSP60) and pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 (PDK4) genes expression at E16 and PDK4 and secreted frizzled related protein 1 (SFRP1) at E18 (P < 0.05). At E16, IOI of VC significantly decreased the methylation levels of total CpG sites and −336 CpG site in HSP60 promoter and −1137 CpG site in PDK4 promoter (P < 0.05). Potential binding sites for nuclear factor-1 were found around −389 and −336 CpG sites in HSP60 promoter and potential binding site for specificity protein 1 was found around −1137 CpG site in PDK4 promoter. Our results suggested that IOI of VC increased HSP60, PDK4 and SFRP1 genes expression at E16 and 18, which may be associated with the demethylation in gene promoters. Whether IOI of VC could improve hatchability needs to be further verified by setting uninjection group.
In general, one animal is considered dominant over another animal if it has won more fights than its opponent. Whether this difference in won and lost fights is significant is neglected in most studies. Thus, the present study evaluates the impact of two different calculation methods for dyadic interactions with a significant asymmetric outcome on the results of social network analysis regarding agonistic interactions of pigs in three different mixing events (weaned piglets, fattening pigs and gilts). Directly after mixing, all animals were video recorded for 17 (fattening pigs, gilts) and 28 h (weaned piglets), documenting agonistic interactions. Two calculation methods for significant dyads, that is, dyadic interactions with a clear dominant subordinate relationship in which one animal has won significantly more fights than its encounter, were proposed: pen individual limits were calculated by a sign test considering the differences of won and lost fights of all dyadic interactions in each pen; dyad individual limits were determined by a one-sided sign test for each individual dyad. For all data sets (ALL, including all dyadic interactions; PEN or DYAD, including only significant dyads according to pen or dyad individual limits), networks were built based on the information of initiator and receiver with the pigs as nodes and the edges between them illustrating attacks. General network parameters describing the whole network structure and centrality parameters describing the position of each animal in the network were calculated. Both pen and dyad individual limits revealed only a small percentage of significant dyads for weaned piglets (12.4% or 8.8%), fattening pigs (4.2% or 0.6%) and gilts (3.6% or 0.4%). The comparison between the data sets revealed only high Spearman’s rank correlation coefficients (rS) for the density, that is, percentage of possible edges that were actually present in the network, whereas the centrality parameters showed only moderate rS values (0.37 to 0.75). Thus, the rank order of the animals changed due to the exclusion of insignificant dyads, which shows that the results obtained from social network analysis are clearly influenced if insignificant dyads are excluded from the analyses. Due to the fact that the pen individual limits consider the overall level of agonistic interactions within each pen, this calculation method should be preferred over the dyad individual limits. Otherwise, too many animals in the group became isolated nodes with zero centrality for which no statement about their position within the network can be made.
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a proxy measure of autonomic function and can be used as an indicator of swine stress. While traditional linear measures are used to distinguish between stressed and unstressed treatments, inclusion of nonlinear HRV measures that evaluate data structure and organization shows promise for improving HRV interpretation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the inclusion of nonlinear HRV measures in response to an acute heat episode. Twenty 12- to 14-week-old growing pigs were individually housed for 7 days and acclimated to thermoneutral conditions (20.35°C ± 0.01°C; 67.6% ± 0.2% RH) before undergoing one of the two treatments: (1) thermoneutral control (TN; n = 10 pigs) or (2) acute heat stress (HS; n = 10 pigs; 32.6°C ± 0.1°C; 26.2% ± 0.1% RH). In Phase 1 of the experimental procedure (P1; 60 min), pigs underwent a baseline HRV measurement period in thermoneutral conditions before treatment [Phase 2; P2; 60 min once gastrointestinal temperature (Tg) reached 40.6°C], where HS pigs were exposed to heated conditions and TN pigs remained in thermoneutral conditions. After P2, all pigs were moved back to thermoneutral conditions (Phase 3; P3; 60 min). During each phase, Tg data were collected every 5 min and behavioural data were collected to evaluate the amount of time each pig spent in an active posture. Additionally, linear (time and frequency domain) and nonlinear [sample entropy (SampEn), de-trended fluctuation analysis, percentage recurrence, percentage determinism (%DET), mean diagonal line length in a recurrence plot] HRV measures were quantified. Heat stressed pigs exhibited greater Tg (P = 0.002) and spent less time in an active posture compared to TN pigs during P2 (P = 0.0003). Additionally, low frequency to high frequency ratio was greater in HS pigs during P3 compared to TN pigs (P = 0.02). SampEn was reduced in HS pigs during P2 (P = 0.01) and P3 (P = 0.03) compared to TN pigs. Heat stressed pigs exhibited greater %DET during P3 (P = 0.03) and tended to have greater %DET (P = 0.09) during P2 than TN pigs. No differences between treatments were detected for the remaining HRV measures. In conclusion, linear HRV measures were largely unchanged during P2. However, changes to SampEn and %DET suggest increased heat stress as a result of the acute heat episode. Future work should continue to evaluate the benefits of including nonlinear HRV measures in HRV analysis of swine heat stress.