Challenges facing the pig industry including environmental and animal welfare legislation as well as high production costs and poor pig prices means that there is increasing demand for new knowledge and solutions to problems at farm level. The research aspect of the Pig Production Development Unit based at Moorepark Research Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork is equipped to meet this demand.

Recent Submissions

  • Enrichment use in finishing pigs and its relationship with damaging behaviours: Comparing three wood species and a rubber floor toy

    Chou, Jen-Yun; D’Eath, Rick B.; Sandercock, Dale A.; O’Driscoll, Keelin; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Scottish Government; 14/S/871 (Elsevier BV, 2020-03)
    Environmental enrichment in pig housing is a legal requirement under current EU legislation, but some recommended loose materials may cause obstructions in fully-slatted systems. Wood is an organic material that could be compatible with slatted systems. This study investigated enrichment use in finishing pigs (three wood species and a rubber floor toy) and explored the relationship between use and damaging behaviours, and physiological and physical measures of stress and injury. Individual variation in enrichment use within pen was also investigated. Pigs (12 weeks old; week 0) were housed in 40 pens of seven pigs (n = 280). One of four different enrichment items (one spruce, larch, or beech wooden post, or rubber floor toy) was randomly assigned to each pen (10 pens/treatment). The behaviour of each individually marked pig was observed continuously from video recordings taken on six different occasions (twice during week 2, 4 and 7; 1 h per occasion). Individual tail/ear lesion and tear staining scores were recorded every 2 weeks. Saliva samples for cortisol analysis were obtained from three focal pigs per pen every 2 weeks. These focal pigs were selected based on the latency to approach the experimenter on the first sampling day and classified as ‘Approach’, ‘Neutral’ or ‘Avoid’. Carcasses were inspected for tail lesions and potential oral damage. Time spent using enrichment was higher in pigs with spruce and rubber toy than with larch and beech (P < 0.001). Spruce was used up the most quickly and was the softest of the wood species (P < 0.001). High use of spruce was not due to consistent high use by certain pigs. No treatment effect on any other behaviour was recorded, but enrichment use was positively correlated with damaging behaviours at pen level (P < 0.001). Spruce pigs had slightly more severe tail lesion scores than Beech (P < 0.05). Salivary cortisol did not differ between treatments but was higher in ‘Avoid’ than ‘Approach’ pigs (P = 0.04). No clear oral damage that could be attributed to using wood was found. By investigating enrichment use at both pen and individual level, a more complete picture was obtained of how pigs used the enrichment. Wood appears to be a safe material to use as environmental enrichment for pigs and a softer wood species was preferred by pigs with equal preference for the rubber floor toy.
  • Intra-Group Lethal Gang Aggression in Domestic Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus)

    Camerlink, Irene; Chou, Jen-Yun; Turner, Simon P.; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Scottish Government Strategic Research (MDPI AG, 2020-07-28)
    Intraspecific coalitional aggression is rare among all species, especially within stable social groups. We report here numerous cases of intraspecific lethal gang aggression within stable groups of domestic pigs. The objective was to describe this extreme aggression and to identify potential causes. Management data were collected from farms with (n = 23) and without (n = 19) gang aggression. From one farm, 91 victims were assessed for skin injuries and body condition score. Lethal gang aggression was significantly associated with deep straw bedding, which may be related to various other factors. Gang aggression tended to occur more in winter, and was unrelated to genetic line, breeding company, group size or feed type. It occurred equally in female-only and mixed sex groups (male-only groups were not represented), from around eight weeks of age. Injuries typically covered the whole body and were more severe on the front of the body. Victims who survived had a lower body condition score and fewer injuries than victims found dead. There are still many unknowns as to why this abnormal social behaviour occurs and it deserves further research attention, both for its applied relevance to animal welfare as for the evolutionary background of lethal gang aggression.
  • Fecal Microbiota Transplant From Highly Feed Efficient Donors Affects Cecal Physiology and Microbiota in Low- and High-Feed Efficient Chickens

    Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; Siegerstetter, Sina-Catherine; Magowan, Elizabeth; Lawlor, Peadar G.; O′Connell, Niamh E.; Zebeli, Qendrim; European Union; 311794 (Frontiers Media SA, 2019-07-09)
    Fecal microbiota transplants (FMT) may be used to improve chicken’s feed efficiency (FE) via modulation of the intestinal microbiota and microbe-host signaling. This study investigated the effect of the administration of FMT from highly feed efficient donors early in life on the jejunal and cecal microbiota, visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, permeability, and expression of genes for nutrient transporters, barrier function and innate immune response in chickens of diverging residual feed intake (RFI; a metric for FE). Chicks (n = 110) were inoculated with the FMT or control transplant (CT) on 1, 6, and 9 days posthatch (dph), from which 56 chickens were selected on 30 dph as the extremes in RFI, resulting in 15 low and 13 high RFI chickens receiving the FMT and 14 low and 14 high RFI chickens receiving the CT. RFI rank and FMT only caused tendencies for alterations in the jejunal microbiota and only one unclassified Lachnospiraceae genus in cecal digesta was indicative of high RFI. By contrast, the FMT caused clear differences in the short-chain fatty acid (SCFA) profile in the crop and cecal microbiota composition compared to the CT, which indicated alterations in amylolytic, pullulanolytic and hemicellulolytic bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Dorea, and Ruminococcus. Moreover, the FMT caused alterations in intestinal development as indicated by the longer duodenum and shallower crypts in the ceca. From the observed RFI-associated variation, energy-saving mechanisms and moderation of the mucosal immune response were indicated by higher jejunal permeability, shorter villi in the ileum, and enhanced cecal expression of the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL10 in low RFI chickens. Relationships obtained from supervised multigroup data integration support that certain bacteria, including Ruminococcocaceae-, Lactobacillus-, and unclassified Clostridiales-phylotypes, and SCFA in jejunal and cecal digesta modulated expression levels of cytokines, tight-junction protein OCLN and nutrient transporters for glucose and SCFA uptake. In conclusion, results suggest that the intestine only played a moderate role for the RFI-associated variation of the present low and high RFI phenotypes, whereas modulating the early microbial colonization resulted in longlasting changes in bacterial taxonomic and metabolite composition as well as in host intestinal development.
  • Differences in intestinal size, structure, and function contributing to feed efficiency in broiler chickens reared at geographically distant locations

    Metzler-Zebeli, B.U.; Magowan, E.; Hollmann, M.; Ball, M.E.E.; Molnár, A.; Witter, K.; Ertl, R.; Hawken, R.J.; Lawlor, Peadar G.; O’Connell, N.E.; et al. (Elsevier BV, 2018-02)
    The contribution of the intestinal tract to differences in residual feed intake (RFI) has been inconclusively studied in chickens so far. It is also not clear if RFI-related differences in intestinal function are similar in chickens raised in different environments. The objective was to investigate differences in nutrient retention, visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, jejunal permeability and expression of genes related to barrier function, and innate immune response in chickens of diverging RFI raised at 2 locations (L1: Austria; L2: UK). The experimental protocol was similar, and the same dietary formulation was fed at the 2 locations. Individual BW and feed intake (FI) of chickens (Cobb 500FF) were recorded from d 7 of life. At 5 wk of life, chickens (L1, n = 157; L2 = 192) were ranked according to their RFI, and low, medium, and high RFI chickens were selected (n = 9/RFI group, sex, and location). RFI values were similar between locations within the same RFI group and increased by 446 and 464 g from low to high RFI in females and males, respectively. Location, but not RFI rank, affected growth, nutrient retention, size of the intestine, and jejunal disaccharidase activity. Chickens from L2 had lower total body weight gain and mucosal enzyme activity but higher nutrient retention and longer intestines than chickens at L1. Parameters determined only at L1 showed increased crypt depth in the duodenum and jejunum and enhanced paracellular permeability in low vs. high RFI females. Jejunal expression of IL1B was lower in low vs. high RFI females at L2, whereas that of TLR4 at L1 and MCT1 at both locations was higher in low vs. high RFI males. Correlation analysis between intestinal parameters and feed efficiency metrics indicated that feed conversion ratio was more correlated to intestinal size and function than was RFI. In conclusion, the rearing environment greatly affected intestinal size and function, thereby contributing to the variation in chicken RFI observed across locations.
  • Pig farmers’ willingness to pay for management strategies to reduce aggression between pigs

    Peden, Rachel S. E.; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon P.; Scotland’s Rural College (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2019-11-08)
    When deciding whether to invest in an improvement to animal welfare, farmers must trade-off the relative costs and benefits. Despite the existence of effective solutions to many animal welfare issues, farmers’ willingness to pay for them is largely unknown. This study modelled pig farmers’ decisions to improve animal welfare using a discrete choice experiment focused on alleviating aggression between growing/finishing pigs at regrouping. Eighty-two UK and Irish pig farm owners and managers were asked to choose between hypothetical aggression control strategies described in terms of four attributes; installation cost, on-going cost, impact on skin lesions from aggression and impact on growth rate. If they did not like any of the strategies they could opt to keep their current farm practice. Systematic variations in product attributes allowed farmers’ preferences and willingness to pay to be estimated and latent class modelling accounted for heterogeneity in responses. The overall willingness to pay to reduce lesions was low at £0.06 per pig place (installation cost) and £0.01 per pig produced (running cost) for each 1% reduction in lesions. Results revealed three independent classes of farmers. Farmers in Class 1 were unlikely to regroup unfamiliar growing/finishing pigs, and thus were unwilling to adopt measures to reduce aggression at regrouping. Farmers in Classes 2 and 3 were willing to adopt measures providing certain pre-conditions were met. Farmers in Class 2 were motivated mainly by business goals, whilst farmers in Class 3 were motivated by both business and animal welfare goals, and were willing to pay the most to reduce aggression; £0.11 per pig place and £0.03 per pig produced for each 1% reduction in lesions. Farmers should not be considered a homogeneous group regarding the adoption of animal welfare innovations. Instead, campaigns should be targeted at subgroups according to their independent preferences and willingness to pay.
  • Effect of feed allowance at pasture on the lying behaviour of dairy cows

    O’Driscoll, Keelin; Lewis, Eva; Kennedy, Emer (Elsevier, 2019-02-10)
    In temperate climates where cows are primarily managed at pasture shortages of grass could result in nutritional deficits for the cow and may have a variety of behavioural consequences. Lying behaviour is one of the most researched aspects of dairy cow behaviour, and can provide insights into cow welfare and physiological state. This study investigated the effect of daily herbage allowance (DHA) on the lying behaviour of dairy cow during early lactation. Ninety-six cows were randomly assigned to one of eight treatments in a 2 × 4 factorial design; experimental duration (2 week (2 W) or 6 week (6 W)), and nutritional levels (DHA) (60%, 80%, 100% or 120% of intake capacity). Cows were assigned to treatment at 28 ± 8.4 days in milk, and lying behaviour of cows in the 6 W treatments recorded using modified voltage data loggers on 4 occasions; the week prior to the start of the experiment, during week 3 (MID), and week 6 (LATE), and 7 weeks after the study concluded (POST), when the cows were all returned to a feed allowance of 100% intake capacity. Although there was an effect of treatment on daily lying time (P < 0.01), with the 60% cows spending less time lying than the 120% (P < 0.01), cows in all treatments spent at least 9 h lying per day throughout the experiment. Daily lying time increased as the grazing season progressed (P < 0.001). Feed allowance affected both lying bout duration (P < 0.01) and number (P < 0.05), with cows on the highest feed allowance having the highest values for both. There was an effect of feed allowance on the time that cows first lay down after both morning and afternoon milking (P < 0.001), with a similar pattern for both times; the lower the feed allowance, the longer it took. During the POST period, this pattern was no longer evident in the afternoon, but still present in the morning. None of the treatments imposed resulted in daily lying times lower than those reported in other studies at pasture. However, the significant differences in patterns of lying during the day could be reflective of satiety level; the patterns of lying in cows with a low feed allowance compared to those with an allowance aligned with intake capacity are in agreement with previous research. Herd level recording of lying behaviour, relative to time since milking and/or fresh feed allocation, has potential for use as an animal welfare indicator for cows at pasture.
  • Preface to the special issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology on the outcomes of the MARLON project on veterinary epidemiology of potential health impacts of genetically modified feeds in livestock

    Lawlor, Peadar G; Epstein, Michelle M.; Kleter, Gijs A. (Elsevier, 2018-04-26)
    Preface to the special issue of Food and Chemical Toxicology on the outcomes of the MARLON project.
  • Predicting Productive Performance in Grow-Finisher Pigs Using Birth and Weaning Body Weight

    Camp Montoro, Jordi; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Solà-Oriol, David; Muns, Ramon; Gasa, Josep; Clear, Oliver; Calderon Diaz, Julia; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/832 (MDPI AG, 2020-06-12)
    This study aimed to (1) investigate the effect of birth and weaning body weight (BW) on performance indicators of grow-finisher pigs and (2) estimate birth and weaning BW cut-off values in order to identify slow growing pigs (SGP). Pigs (n = 144) were classified as SMALL (0.9 ± 0.13 kg) or BIG (1.4 ± 0.20 kg) at birth and re-classified as SMALL (5.4 ± 1.6 kg) or BIG (6.3 ± 1.91 kg) at weaning. Individual BW was recorded bi-weekly, and feed intake was recorded on a daily basis. Average daily gain (ADG) and feed intake, feed conversion ratio (FCR) and days to target slaughter weight (TSW) were calculated. SMALL–SMALL pigs had lower ADG (p < 0.05) requiring 167.1 days (i.e., 14.2 extra days) to TSW (p < 0.05) compared with BIG pigs at birth and/or weaning. However, FCR was similar between groups (p > 0.05). Pigs weaned at <3.7 kg BW would likely be SGP. Pigs born at ≥1.1 kg BW or weaned at ≥6.4 kg BW are more likely to reach TSW at 22 weeks of age. The results suggest that birth BW might not be the best predictor for subsequent performance, as some small-born pigs were able to catch up with their bigger counterparts. The cut-off values identified could be used to design specific management and nutritional strategies for SGP.
  • The Effect of Dietary Oil Type and Energy Intake in Lactating Sows on the Fatty Acid Profile of Colostrum and Milk, and Piglet Growth to Weaning

    Lavery, Anna; Lawlor, Peadar G.; Miller, Helen M.; Magowan, Elizabeth; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; University of Leeds (MDPI AG, 2019-12-06)
    This study investigated the effect of salmon oil in lactating sow diets and offering these diets in a phased dietary regimen to increase the energy density of the diet in late lactation. Sow and piglet productivity to weaning, the fatty acid profile of milk, piglet blood and tissues at weaning were the main parameters measured. Multiparous sows (n = 100) (Landrace × Large White) were offered dietary treatments from day 105 of gestation until weaning. Dietary treatments (2 × 2 factorial) included oil type (soya or salmon oil) and dietary regimen (Flat 14.5 MJ/kg DE diet offered until weaning or Phased 14.5 MJ/kg DE diet offered to day 14 of lactation then a second diet containing 15.5 MJ/kg DE offered from day 15 until weaning). Salmon oil inclusion increased the total proportion of n-3 fatty acids in colostrum (p < 0.001), milk (p < 0.001), piglet plasma (p < 0.01), adipose (p < 0.001), liver (p < 0.001) and muscle (p < 0.001). Increasing sow dietary energy level in late lactation increased the total n-3 fatty acids in milk (p < 0.001), piglet adipose (p < 0.01) and piglet muscle (p < 0.05). However, piglet growth to weaning did not improve.
  • Damaging Behaviour and Associated Lesions in Relation to Types of Enrichment for Finisher Pigs on Commercial Farms

    van Staaveren, Nienke; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 11/S/107 (MDPI AG, 2019-09-12)
    EU legislation states that all pigs must have access to material that allows them to perform investigation and manipulation activities, thereby reducing the risk of pigs performing damaging behaviours (e.g., tail, ear and flank biting). We aimed to determine associations between damaging behaviours performed by finisher pigs, the related lesions and the use of different types of enrichment. Six randomly selected pens of finisher pigs were observed for 10 min each on 31 commercial pig farms in Ireland. All pigs were counted and the number of pigs affected by tail, ear and flank lesions was recorded. During the last 5 min, all occurrences of damaging behaviour (tail-, ear- and flank-directed behaviour) were recorded. The type (chain, plastic or wood) and number of accessible enrichment objects/pen was recorded. Chains were the most common (41.4% of farms), followed by plastic (37.9%) and wood (20.7%). Damaging behaviour was more frequent on farms that provided chains compared to plastic or wood. Farms with chains were associated with a higher frequency of flank-directed behaviour and tended to be associated with a higher frequency of tail-directed behaviour compared to farms that provided plastic devices. The prevalence of lesions tended to be higher on farms where chains were provided compared to wooden enrichment devices, mostly driven by a difference in the prevalence of mild tail lesions. Results support expert opinions that despite being commonly used, chains did not fulfill a role in reducing damaging behaviours and associated lesions in finisher pigs compared to other forms of enrichment.
  • A Single Dose of Fat-Based Energy Supplement to Light Birth Weight Pigs Shortly After Birth Does Not Increase Their Survival and Growth

    Schmitt, Océane; Baxter, Emma; Lawlor, Peadar; Boyle, Laura; O’Driscoll, Keelin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13S428 (MDPI AG, 2019-05-09)
    Low birth weight piglets are at high risk of mortality, because of the rapid depletion of their energy reserves after birth. At 3 h postpartum, 405 piglets weighing <1.1 kg were either dosed orally with 2 mL of (1) coconut oil (CO, 74 kJ/2 mL, n = 107 piglets), (2) commercial product (CP, 71 kJ/2 mL, n = 101 piglets), (3) water (W, 0 kJ/2 mL, n = 100 piglets) or (4) were sham-dosed (S, n = 97 piglets). Treatments were applied within litter (97 sows). Before treatment piglets were weighed, scored for vitality and blood glucose concentration (subset: CO = 45 piglets, CP = 38 piglets, W = 49 piglets and S = 44 piglets) and rectal temperature were measured. Rectal temperature was remeasured 1 h post-treatment (4 h postpartum). At 24 h post-treatment (27 h postpartum), vitality, weight and blood glucose were remeasured. Piglets were weighed on D5, D7, D10, D14, D21 and at weaning (27 ± 0.1 day old). Mortality rate and cause were recorded until 24h period post-treatment and until weaning. Data were analysed using Generalised Linear Mixed Models in SAS. There was no overall effect of treatment on any of the parameters measured. In conclusion, a single oral of fat-based energy supplement dose at birth did not improve growth, survival, rectal temperature or vitality of low birth weight piglets.
  • Rearing Undocked Pigs on Fully Slatted Floors Using Multiple Types and Variations of Enrichment

    Chou, Jen-Yun; Drique, Constance; Sandercock, Dale; D’Eath, Rick; O’Driscoll, Keelin (MDPI AG, 2019-04-02)
    In fully slatted systems, tail biting is difficult to manage when pigs’ tails are not docked because loose enrichment material can obstruct slurry systems. This pilot study sought to determine: a) whether intact-tailed pigs can be reared with a manageable level of tail biting by using multiple slat-compatible enrichment; b) whether a variation of enrichment has an effect; and c) whether pigs show a preference in enrichment use. Ninety-six undocked pigs were given the same enrichment items from one week after birth until weaning. At weaning, four different combinations of 8 enrichment items were utilized based on predefined characteristics. These were randomly assigned to 8 pens (n = 12 pigs/pen). Four pens had the same combination (SAME) from assignment and four pens switched combinations every two weeks (SWITCH). Individual lesion scores, interactions with the enrichment, and harmful behaviours were recorded. The average tail score during the experiment was low (0.93 ± 0.02). Only one pig in a SAME pen had a severely bitten tail (partly amputated). The overall level of interaction with enrichment did not decline over time. Pigs interacted with a rack of loose material most frequently (p < 0.001). The study showed promising results for rearing undocked pigs on fully slatted floors using slat-compatible enrichment.
  • Factors Influencing Farmer Willingness to Reduce Aggression between Pigs

    Peden, Rachel; Akaichi, Faical; Camerlink, Irene; Boyle, Laura; Turner, Simon; Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) (MDPI AG, 2018-12-22)
    Aggression between pigs remains an important animal welfare issue despite several solutions existing. Uptake of livestock welfare research relies on various stakeholders being willing to recommend or adopt changes to farm structure or management (e.g., veterinarians, researchers, farmers). This survey provides insight into the attitudes and practices of 122 UK and Irish pig farmers regarding aggression between growing pigs. Our aim was to understand why mitigation strategies are not adequately implemented. The majority of farmers mixed pigs at least once during production and had tried at least one mitigation strategy in the past. Farmers expressed limited willingness to implement strategies in the future, and a structural equation model revealed that this was directly influenced by their beliefs about the outcome of controlling aggression, and their perception of their ability to implement the necessary changes. Willingness was indirectly influenced by their perceptions of aggression as a problem and views of relevant stakeholder groups. Veterinarians had the greatest impact on farmer behavior. We recommend that researchers test research findings in practice, calculate cost-benefits of implementation, and transfer knowledge through various sources. This study showed that structural equation modeling is a valuable tool to understand farmer behavior regarding specific and entrenched animal welfare issues.
  • Multi-Stakeholder Focus Groups on Potential for Meat Inspection Data to Inform Management of Pig Health and Welfare on Farm

    van Staaveren, Nienke; Doyle, Bernadette; Hanlon, Alison; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 11/S/107 (MDPI AG, 2019-02-19)
    Meat inspection (MI) findings can act as a valuable source of information on pig health and welfare. The PIG WELFare INDicators (PIGWELFIND) project (Research Stimulus Fund 11/S/107) was developed to progress the development of ante and post mortem MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool in Ireland. Three multi-stakeholder focus groups were organized to explore areas of conflict and agreement between stakeholders’ vision for including pig health and welfare indicators in MI and on how to achieve this vision. Each focus group consisted of eight stakeholders: pig producers, Teagasc pig advisors, pig processors, veterinarians involved in MI, private veterinary practitioners, and personnel with backgrounds in general animal health and welfare and food safety policy. In general, stakeholders expressed positive attitudes towards the use of MI data to inform pig health and welfare when standardization of recording and feedback is improved, and the MI system provides real-time benchmarking possibilities. Most emphasis was placed on health indicators as a first priority, while it was felt that welfare-related indicators could be included after practical barriers had been addressed (i.e., line speed/feasibility, standardization and training of meat inspectors, data ownership). Recommendations are made to further progress the development of MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool and address some of these barriers.
  • Effect of water-to-feed ratio on feed disappearance, growth rate, feed efficiency, and carcass traits in growing-finishing pigs

    O’Meara, Fiona M; Gardiner, Gillian E; O’Doherty, John V; Lawlor, Peadar G; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020-04-03)
    The optimum proportion of water for preparing liquid feed to maximize growth and optimize feed efficiency (FE) in growing-finishing pigs is not known. The aim of the current study was, using an automatic short-trough sensor liquid feeding system, to identify the water-to-feed ratio at which growth was maximized and feed was most efficiently converted to live-weight. Two experiments were conducted in which four commercially used water-to-feed ratios were fed: 2.4:1, 3.0:1, 3.5:1, and 4.1:1 on a dry matter (DM) basis (the equivalent of 2:1, 2.5:1, 3.0:1, and 3.5:1 on a fresh matter basis). Each experiment comprised 216 pigs, penned in groups of 6 same sex (entire male and female) pigs/pen with a total of 9 pen replicates per treatment. The first experiment lasted 62 days (from 40.6 to 102.2 kg at slaughter) and the second experiment was for 76 days (from 31.8 to 119.6 kg at slaughter). Overall, in Exp. 1, FE was 0.421, 0.420, 0.453, and 0.448 (s.e. 0.0081 g/g; P < 0.01) for pigs fed at 2.4:1, 3.0:1, 3.5:1, and 4.1:1, respectively. Overall, in Exp. 2, average daily gain was 1,233, 1,206, 1,211, and 1,177 (s.e. 12.7 g/day; P < 0.05) for pigs fed at 2.4:1, 3.0:1, 3.5:1, and 4.1:1, respectively. At slaughter, in Exp. 1, dressing percentage was 76.7, 76.6, 76.7, and 75.8 (s.e. 0.17%; P < 0.01) for 2.4:1, 3.0:1, 3.5:1, and 4.1:1, respectively. There were no differences between treatment groups for DM, organic matter, nitrogen, gross energy, or ash digestibilities. These findings indicate that liquid feeding a diet prepared at a water-to-feed ratio of 3.5:1 maximizes FE of growing-finishing pigs without negatively affecting dressing percentage. Therefore, preparing liquid feed for growing-finishing pigs at a water-to-feed ratio of 3.5:1 DM is our recommendation for a short-trough liquid feeding system.
  • Host-Microbiota Interactions in Ileum and Caecum of Pigs Divergent in Feed Efficiency Contribute to Nutrient Utilization

    Reyer, Henry; Oster, Michael; McCormack, Ursula M.; Muráni, Eduard; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Ponsuksili, Siriluck; Lawlor, Peadar G.; Wimmers, Klaus; European Union; 311794 (MDPI AG, 2020-04-14)
    The composition of the intestinal microbiota plays an important role in the digestion and utilization of nutrients and for gut health. Low-fiber diets stimulate digestion and absorption processes, predominantly in the upper region of the gastrointestinal tract, thereby increasing the conversion of feed into body weight. As a consequence, the chemical composition of digesta after duodenal and jejunal absorption processes and passage has a limited complexity affecting colonization and molecular profiles of enterocytes in the hind gut. To decipher ileal and caecal microbial ecosystems and host transcriptional profiles that are beneficial for effective use of the remaining nutrients, pigs differing in feeding efficiency were studied. Biological functions that were consistently enriched at both the gene and microbiota levels comprise immunity-related processes, which ensure the integrity of the gastrointestinal tract. In addition, the differential abundance of certain genera, including Rothia, Subdoligranulu, Leeia and Cellulosilyticum, reflects the establishment of a microbial profile that supports the digestion of endogenously indigestible dietary components in highly feed-efficient pigs. Overall, the results indicate the potential to promote these beneficial functions and further improve feed efficiency through manipulation of dietary and probiotic strategies.
  • Ear, tail and skin lesions vary according to different production flows in a farrow-to-finish pig farm

    Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; García Manzanilla, Edgar; Leonard, Finola C; Calderón Díaz, Julia A; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 14/S/832 (Biomed Central, 2019-07-15)
    Background Pig performance and risk of disease are associated with production flow. Given the link between health and welfare, it is likely that animal welfare indicators are also associated with production flow. This study investigated the association between production flow and tail, ear and skin lesions on a farm with a purported ‘all-in/all-out’ policy. This was an observational study whereby pigs were managed according to routine farm practice. A total of 1,016 pigs born within 1 week from the same batch were followed through the production stages and the presence or absence of welfare indicators was recorded at 4, 7, 9, 12, 16 and 24 weeks of age. Three production flows were retrospectively identified: flow 1 = ‘normal’ pigs that advanced through the production stages together ‘on time’, flow 2 = pigs delayed from advancing from the 1st to the 2nd nursery stage by 1 week and flow 3 = pigs delayed from advancing through the production stages by > 1 week. A nested case control design was applied by matching pigs by sow parity, number of born alive and birth weight. Results The presence of ear lesions was 4.5 less likely in pigs in flow 2 and 2.9 times less likely in pigs in flow 3 (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 1. Pigs in flow 3 were 2.2 more likely to have tail and 1.6 times more likely to have ear lesions (P < 0.001) compared to pigs in flow 2. Pigs in flow 2 were less likely to have tail lesions compared with pigs in flow 1 (P < 0.05). Differences between production flows for the risk of skin lesions varied according to age (P < 0.05). Conclusion All production flows were associated with a high risk of lesions which raises concerns for pig welfare. However, risks for ear, tail and skin lesions varied according to each production flow likely due to the specific management practices inherent to each flow. Results from this study could be used to modify existing management practices, thus leading to improvements in animal welfare and possibly performance in intensive pig systems.
  • Using the Biocheck.UGent™ scoring tool in Irish farrow-to-finish pig farms: assessing biosecurity and its relation to productive performance

    Rodrigues da Costa, Maria; Gasa, Josep; Calderón Díaz, Julia A; Postma, Merel; Dewulf, Jeroen; McCutcheon, Gerard; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine; 14/S/832 (Biomed Central, 2019-03-01)
    Background Biosecurity is one of the main factors affecting disease occurrence and antimicrobial use, and it is associated with performance in pig production. However, the importance of specific measures could vary depending on the (national) context. The aim of this study was to describe the biosecurity status in a cohort of Irish pig farms, to investigate which of those biosecurity aspects are more relevant by using the Biocheck.UGent™ scoring system, and to study the impact of such aspects on farm performance. Results External biosecurity score was high compared to most countries due to the characteristics of the Irish pig sector (i.e. purchasing only semen and breeding gilts on farm). The internal biosecurity score was lower and had greater variability among farms than other EU countries. Using multivariable linear regression, the biosecurity practices explained 8, 23, and 16% of variability in piglet mortality, finisher mortality, and average daily gain, respectively. Three clusters of farms were defined based on their biosecurity scores (0 to 100) using principal components and hierarchical clustering analysis. Scores for clusters 1, 2 and 3 were (mean ± SD) 38 ± 7.6, 61 ± 7.0 and 66 ± 9.8 for internal and 73 ± 5.1, 74 ± 5.3 and 86 ± 4.5 for external biosecurity. Cluster 3 had lower piglet mortality (P = 0.022) and higher average daily gain (P = 0.037) when compared to cluster 2. Conclusions Irish farms follow European tendencies with internal biosecurity posing as the biggest liability. Our results suggest that practices related to the environment and region, feed, water and equipment supply, and the management of the different stages, need to be addressed in lower performing farms to improve productive performance. Further studies on the economic impact of these biosecurity practices including complementary data on herd health, gilt rearing, piglet management, vaccination and feeding strategies are needed.
  • Removing prophylactic antibiotics from pig feed: how does it affect their performance and health?

    Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Leonard, Finola C; Carroll, Ciaran; Sheehan, Eugene; Murphy, Declan; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Biomed Central, 2019-02-26)
    Background Antibiotics (AB) are an important tool to tackle infectious disease in pig farms; however some research indicates that their frequent mis/over-use may contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance and the WHO has declared that this issue should be addressed. Little is known about the long term consequences of withdrawing prophylactic AB from pig feed; hence we aimed to assess its effects on performance and health of pigs from weaning to slaughter. Six batches of 140 pigs each were monitored on a commercial farm through the weaner and finisher stages to slaughter. In-feed antibiotics were not added to the feed for half of the pigs (NOI) and were added in the other half (ABI) within each batch for the whole weaner stage. Individual pigs in both treatments were treated with parenteral administrations if and when detected as ill or lame. Productive performance, parenteral treatments and mortality were recorded on farm and the presence of respiratory disease was recorded at slaughter. Pen was considered the experimental unit. Results ABI pigs showed higher growth (P = 0.018) and feed intake (P = 0.048) than NOI pigs in the first weaner stage but feed efficiency was not affected (NOI = 1.48 vs. ABI = 1.52). Despite an initial reduction in performance, NOI pigs had similar performance in finisher stage (ADG: NOI = 865.4 vs. ABI = 882.2) and minimal effects on health compared to ABI pigs. No difference between treatments was found at the abattoir for the percentage of pigs affected by pneumonia, pleurisy, pleuropneumonia and abscesses (P > 0.05). Mortality rate was not affected by treatment during the weaner stage (P = 0.806) although it tended to be slightly higher in NOI than ABI pigs during the finisher stage (P = 0.099). Parenteral treatments were more frequent in NOI pigs during the weaner stage (P <  0.001) while no difference was recorded during the finisher stage (P = 0.406). Conclusions These data suggest that the removal of prophylactic in-feed antibiotics is possible with only minor reductions in productive performance and health which can be addressed by improved husbandry and use of parenteral antibiotics.
  • Effect of phytase, carbohydrase, and protease addition to a wheat distillers dried grains with solubles and rapeseed based diet on in vitro ileal digestibility, growth, and bone mineral density of grower-finisher pigs

    Torres-Pitarch, Alberto; McCormack, Ursula M.; Beattie, Violet; Magowan, Elizabeth; Gardiner, Gillian; Pérez-Vendrell, Anna; Torrallardona, David; O'Doherty, John; Lawlor, Peadar G; European Union; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-07-07)
    The use of rapeseed meal (RSM) and wheat distillers dried grains with solubles (wDDGS) in pig diets is increasing and dietary supplementation with exogenous enzymes has been suggested as means of improving feed efficiency in pigs. The objective of this experiment was to examine the effect of phytase (Phy), a xylanase and β-glucanase complex (XB), protease (Prot) and their various combinations when included in a wDDGS- and RSM-based diet fed to grower-finisher pigs. As the P- and Ca- sparing effect of Phy is well proven, the objective was to examine the additional effects of Phy beyond its P- and Ca-sparing effects. A total of 144 pigs with an initial live weight of 40.1 ± 2.0 kg were assigned to 8 treatments with 9 pens (4 female and 5 male pens) per treatment and 2 females or 2 males per pen. The basal diet was formulated to contain 96 and 200 g/kg of RSM and wDDGS, respectively. The basal diet was supplemented with Phy (0 or 100 mg/kg), XB (0 or 100 mg/kg), and Prot (0 or 200 mg/kg) in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial arrangement of treatments. Experimental diets were fed for 76 d. Average daily gain (ADG) and average daily feed intake (ADFI) were recorded, and gain to feed (G:F) was calculated. Carcass quality variables were measured at slaughter and the left forelimb of pigs fed the unsupplemented, the Phy supplemented and the Phy + Prot supplemented diets were removed to determine bone mineral density in the third metacarpal. The inclusion of Phy, XB and Prot in the diets increased in vitro ileal digestibility of dry matter and organic matter (P < 0.05). A tendency towards a 3-way interaction among Phy, XB and Prot was observed for ADG (P = 0.06) and G:F (P = 0.06). The 2-way interactions and main effects did not reveal any improvement for any variable measured in vivo in response to dietary enzyme supplementation. Bone mineral density was not different for pigs fed the unsupplemented, the Phy supplemented and the Phy + Prot supplemented diets. In conclusion, the in vitro ileal digestibility improvements observed were not always reflected in improvements in pig growth, feed efficiency or both. The efficacy of Phy was not reduced when supplemented in combination with Prot, as ADG, G:F, carcass quality and bone mineralization were unchanged.

View more