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

  • Do weaner pigs need in-feed antibiotics to ensure good health and welfare?

    Diana, Alessia; Manzanilla, Edgar G.; Calderon Diaz, Julia A.; Leonard, Finola C.; Boyle, Laura A. (PLOS, 2017)
    Antibiotics (AB) are used in intensive pig production systems to control infectious diseases and they are suspected to be a major source of antibiotic resistance. Following the ban on AB use as growth promoters in the EU, their prophylactic use in-feed is now under review. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of removing prophylactic in-feed AB on pig health and welfare indicators. Every Monday for six weeks, a subset of 70 pigs were weaned, tagged and sorted into two groups of 35 pigs according to weight (9.2 ± 0.6 kg). AB were removed from the diet of one group (NO, n=6) and maintained in the other group (AB, n=6) for nine weeks. Ten focal pigs were chosen per group. After c. five weeks each group was split into two pens of c.17 pigs for the following 4 weeks. Data were recorded weekly. Skin, tail, ear, flank and limb lesions of focal pigs were scored according to severity. The number of animals per group affected by health deviations was also recorded. The number of fights and harmful behaviours (ear, tail bites) per group was counted during 3×5min observations once per week. Data were analysed using mixed model equations and binomial logistic regression. At group level, AB pigs were more likely to have tail (OR=1.70; P=0.05) but less likely to have ear lesions than NO pigs (OR=0.46; P<0.05). The number of ear bites (21.4±2.15 vs. 17.3±1.61; P<0.05) and fights (6.91±0.91 vs. 5.58±0.72; P=0.09) was higher in AB than in NO pigs. There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low. Removing AB from the feed of weaner pigs had minimal effects on health and welfare indicators.
  • Finishing pigs that are divergent in feed efficiency show small differences in intestinal functionality and structure

    Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; Lawlor, Peadar G; Magowan, Elizabeth; McCormack, Ursula M.; Curiao, Tania; Hollmann, Manfred; Ertl, Reinhardt; Aschenbach, Jorg R.; Zebeli, Qendrim (PLOS, 2017-04-05)
    Controversial information is available regarding the feed efficiency-related variation in intestinal size, structure and functionality in pigs. The present objective was therefore to investigate the differences in visceral organ size, intestinal morphology, mucosal enzyme activity, intestinal integrity and related gene expression in low and high RFI pigs which were reared at three different geographical locations (Austria, AT; Northern Ireland, NI; Republic of Ireland, ROI) using similar protocols. Pigs (n = 369) were ranked for their RFI between days 42 and 91 postweaning and low and high RFI pigs (n = 16 from AT, n = 24 from NI, and n = 60 from ROI) were selected. Pigs were sacrificed and sampled on ~day 110 of life. In general, RFI-related variation in intestinal size, structure and function was small. Some energy saving mechanisms and enhanced digestive and absorptive capacity were indicated in low versus high RFI pigs by shorter crypts, higher duodenal lactase and maltase activity and greater mucosal permeability (P < 0.05), but differences were mainly seen in pigs from AT and to a lesser degree in pigs from ROI. Additionally, low RFI pigs from AT had more goblet cells in duodenum but fewer in jejunum compared to high RFI pigs (P < 0.05). Together with the lower expression of TLR4 and TNFA in low versus high RFI pigs from AT and ROI (P < 0.05), these results might indicate differences in the innate immune response between low and high RFI pigs. Results demonstrated that the variation in the size of visceral organs and intestinal structure and functionality was greater between geographic location (local environmental factors) than between RFI ranks of pigs. In conclusion, present results support previous findings that the intestinal size, structure and functionality do not significantly contribute to variation in RFI of pigs.
  • Genome-wide association analysis and functional annotation of positional candidate genes for feed conversion efficiency and growth rate in pigs

    Horodyska, Justyna; Hamill, Ruth M.; Varley, Patrick F.; Wimmers, Klaus (PLOS, 2017-06-12)
    Feed conversion efficiency is a measure of how well an animal converts feed into live weight and it is typically expressed as feed conversion ratio (FCR). FCR and related traits like growth rate (e.g. days to 110 kg—D110) are of high interest for animal breeders, farmers and society due to implications on animal performance, feeding costs and environmental sustainability. The objective of this study was to identify genomic regions associated with FCR and D110 in pigs. A total of 952 terminal line boars, showing an individual variation in FCR, were genotyped using 60K SNP-Chips. Markers were tested for associations with estimated breeding values (EBV) for FCR and D110. For FCR, the largest number of associated SNPs was located on chromosomes 4 (30 SNPs), 1 (25 SNPs), X (15 SNPs) and 6 (12 SNPs). The most prominent genomic regions for D110 were identified on chromosomes 15 (10 SNPs), 1 and 4 (both 9 SNPs). The most significantly associated SNPs for FCR and D110 mapped 129.8 Kb from METTL11B (chromosome 4) and 32Kb from MBD5 (chromosome 15), respectively. A list of positional genes, closest to significantly associated SNPs, was used to identify enriched pathways and biological functions related to the QTL for both traits. A number of candidate genes were significantly overrepresented in pathways of immune cell trafficking, lymphoid tissue structure, organ morphology, endocrine system function, lipid metabolism, and energy production. After resequencing the coding region of selected positional and functional candidate genes, six SNPs were genotyped in a subset of boars. SNPs in PRKDC, SELL, NR2E1 and AKRIC3 showed significant associations with EBVs for FCR/D110. The study revealed a number of chromosomal regions and candidate genes affecting FCR/D110 and pointed to corresponding biological pathways related to lipid metabolism, olfactory reception, and also immunological status.
  • Delaying pigs from the normal production flow is associated with health problems and poorer performance

    Calderon Díaz, Julia; Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Leonard, Finola C; McElroy, Máire; McGettrick, Shane; Moriarty, John; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar (Biomed Central, 2017-07-05)
    Background Delaying pigs from advancing through the production stages could have a negative impact on their health and performance. The objective of this study was to investigate the possible implications of delaying pigs from the normal production flow on pig health and performance in a farrow-to-finish commercial farm with a self-declared All-In/All-Out (AIAO) management. Results Three flows of pigs were defined, flow 1 (i.e. pigs that followed the normal production flow; 8 weeks in the nursery stage, 4 weeks in the growing stage and 8 weeks in the finisher stage), flow 2 (i.e. pigs delayed 1 week from advancing to the next production stage) and flow 3 (i.e. pigs delayed >1 week from advancing to the next production stage). Flow 3 included higher proportions of pigs from first parity sows and of lighter birth weights. When the 3 flows were matched by parity and birth weight, pigs in flow 2 were 3.8 times more likely to be lame prior to slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Similarly, pigs in flow 3 were more likely to be lame prior to slaughter, 4.5 times more likely to present pleurisy, 3.3 times more like to present pericarditis and 4.3 times more likely to have their heart condemned at slaughter compared with pigs in flow 1. Additionally, carcasses from pigs in flow 3 were 10 kg lighter compared with carcasses from pigs in flow 1. Conclusion Delayed pigs were more affected by disease and were lighter at slaughter. Besides animal welfare issues, these findings could represent considerable economic loses for pig producers. In practice, delaying pigs from the normal production flow translates into higher feeding costs, increase number of days to slaughter and increased labour requirements reducing production efficiency for the pig operation. In farrow-to-finish farms an ‘all-forward’ policy (i.e. no pig is left behind from stage to stage and a split marketing approach is applied when sending pigs to slaughter) might be more easily adhered to.
  • Survival characteristics of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium 4,[5],12:i:- strains derived from pig feed ingredients and compound feed

    Burns, Ann Marie; Duffy, Geraldine; Walsh, Des; Tiwari, Brijish K.; Grant, Jim; Lawlor, Peadar G; Gardiner, Gillian E. (Elsevier, 2015-12-09)
    The presence of Salmonella in animal feed or feed ingredients at the feed mill or on-farm is a cause for concern, as it can be transmitted to food-producing animals and subsequently to humans. The objective of this study was to determine the survival characteristics of five feed ingredient- and feed-derived monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium 4,[5],12:i:- strains. The first part of the study investigated thermal inactivation using an immersed heating coil apparatus. A Weibull model provided a good fit, with low RMSE values (0.04–0.43) and high R2 values (0.93–0.99) obtained. There was considerable inter-strain variation in heat resistance, with D-values ranging from 397.83 to 689 s at 55 °C, 11.35–260.95 s at 60 °C and 1.12 to 6.81 at 65 °C. Likewise, z-values ranged from 2.95 to 5.44 °C. One strain demonstrated a significantly higher thermal tolerance, even though it had been isolated from a meal feed. However, overall the strains investigated do not appear to be that much more heat resistant than Salmonella previously studied. The second part of this study involved assessing the ability of the five Salmonella strains to survive during storage over a 28-day period in pelleted weaner pig feed treated with 0.3% sodium butyrate. While a mean reduction in the Salmonella count of 0.79 log10 CFU was seen in the treated feed during the storage period, a reduction (albeit only 0.49 log10 CFU) was also observed in the control feed. Although there was no overall effect of treatment, sodium butyrate resulted in reductions in Salmonella counts of 0.75 and 0.22 log10 CFU at days 14 and 24 of feed storage, respectively but at the end of the 28-day storage period counts were 0.25 log10 CFU higher in the treated feed. Therefore, the sodium butyrate used appears unsuitable as an agent for feed treatment perhaps due to the protective coating on the particular feed additive used. Overall, the results of this study enhance knowledge about the behaviour and survival characteristics of monophasic S. Typhimurium 4,[5],12:i:- strains in animal feed and may assist the feed industry and pig producers in implementing effective intervention strategies for their control.
  • Stakeholder perspectives on the use of pig meat inspection as a health and welfare diagnostic tool in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland; a SWOT analysis

    Devitt, C.; Boyle, Laura; Teixeira, D. L; O’Connell, N. E; Hawe, M.; Hanlon, A. (Biomed Central, 2016-11-07)
    Background A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis is a strategic management tool applied to policy planning and decision-making. This short report presents the results of a SWOT analysis, carried out with n = 16 stakeholders i) involved in the pig industry in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and ii) in general animal welfare and food safety policy areas. As part of a larger study called PIGWELFIND, the analysis sought to explore the potential development of pig meat inspection as an animal welfare and diagnostic tool. Findings The final SWOT framework comprised two strengths, three opportunities, six weaknesses, and five threats. Issues around relationships and communication between producers and their veterinary practitioner, processors and producers were common to both the strengths and weakness clusters. Practical challenges within the processing plant were also named. Overall, the SWOT framework complements results reported in Devitt et al. (Ir Vet J 69:2, 2016) regarding problematic issues within the current system of information feedback on meat inspection especially within the Republic of Ireland, and the wider challenges of communication and problems of distrust. Conclusion The results of the SWOT analysis support the conclusions from Devitt et al. (Ir Vet J 69:2, 2016), that trust between all stakeholders across the supply chain will be essential for the development of an effective environment in which to realise the full diagnostic potential of MI data. Further stakeholder engagement could seek to apply the findings of the SWOT analysis to a policy Delphi methodology, as used elsewhere.
  • Effects of dietary fibre and the provision of a foraging substrate on the welfare of sows in different grouping systems

    Boyle, Laura; Lynch, P. Brendan; Stewart, Charlotte; O’Connell, Niamh E. (Teagasc, 2010-01)
    There are no clear guidelines on how best to meet the EU legislative requirement (Council Directive 2001/88/EC) that pregnant sows and gilts should be provided with sufficient amounts of bulky or high fibre diets and high energy food to satisfy hunger and the motivation to chew. Therefore the aim of this project was to investigate the effect of increasing dietary fibre levels and providing access to a foraging substrate on the welfare of sows housed in dynamic and static groups. To achieve this a review paper was compiled and three experiments were conducted. The aim of the review paper was to assess the effectiveness of increasing dietary fibre levels on the welfare of pregnant sows. Previous research found that increasing dietary fibre levels decrease activity levels and the performance of stereotypic behaviour, and increase resting behaviour. However, high fibre diets do not appear to reduce aggression between group-housed pregnant sows. The research clearly showed that the effectiveness of high fibre diets is influenced by the source of fibre, with soluble fibres being more effective in reducing stereotypic behaviours than insoluble fibres. However the optimum fibrous ingredient, or combination of ingredients, and the optimum dietary inclusion rate for these ingredients remains unclear.
  • Enhancement of pigmeat quality by altering pre-slaughter management

    Lawlor, Peadar G; Lynch, P.B.; Mullane, J.; Kerry, J. P.; Hogan, S. A.; Allen, Paul (Teagasc, 2005-10-25)
    The studies presented in this report were conducted to investigate the effect of breed, slaughter weight, castration of male pigs and strategic feeding strategies on the performance of pigs to slaughter and on their carcass quality. The effect of breed, gender and feeding regimen on the performance of pigs and their carcass quality was examined in the first study (Section 3). From weaning to slaughter Landrace-sired pigs grew at a similar rate but had a better feed conversion efficiency compared with Duroc-sired pigs. Landrace-sired pigs also had a higher carcass lean and greater muscle depth than Duroc-sired pigs. Entire male pigs grew more efficiently, had lower lean content in their carcasses and had a reduced kill out yield when compared with gilts. The eye muscle depth was greater for gilts than entire males. Diluting the diet with grass-meal (GM) reduced growth rate, caused a deterioration in feed conversion efficiency, reduced back fat thickness, reduced eye muscle thickness and reduced kill out yield compared to the control feeding regimen of a cereal based diet. Compensatory growth was observed during a re-alimentation period following a period of diet dilution with grass-meal. However, where it did occur, in most cases it was only partial. Adding 5% rapeseed oil instead of lard to the finisher diet increased nitrogen utilization efficiency and phosphorous utilization efficiency. The effect of gender (boar, castrate, gilt) and slaughter weight (80 to 120kg) on pig performance, carcass quality, meat quality, and nitrogen excretion was investigated in the second study (Section 4). Boars grew faster than gilts and more efficiently than castrates or gilts. Castrates had a higher kill out yield than boars. Nitrogen excretion from castrates was similar to gilts which were both higher than that from boars. The processing value of carcasses from castrates may be higher than that of boars and gilts. In particular castrates had heavier loins and bellies than either boars or gilts. Carcasses from castrates and gilts had a higher temperature (recorded 24 hours post slaughter) than boars. However, pH24 was not affected by gender. The intramuscular fat content of the l. dorsi in castrates was higher than that of boars or gilts, however at 1.65% this was well below the level (2.0%) above which any noticeable sensory attributes might be detected. Feed intake increased with increasing slaughter weight and feed conversion efficiency deteriorated. N excretion also increased with each increment in weight. Carcass lean content increased up to 90kg live EOP 4939.doc 4 25/10/2005 weight then reached a plateau and declined after 110kg live weight. Heavier carcasses yielded more product for approximately the same slaughtering cost and the associated larger muscles could make it easier to use seam butchery techniques that result in lean, well-trimmed, attractive cuts and joints. The pH45 and pH24 were reduced with increasing slaughter weight and drip loss increased. Heavier pigs may be more prone to the development of PSE than lighter pigs as their carcass temperature remains higher for longer than that of lighter pigs.
  • Effects of husbandry and low-dose lipopolysaccharide challenge on the acute phase response of young pigs

    Llamas Moya, S.; Boyle, Laura; Arkins, S.; Lynch, P.B. (Teagasc, 2006-02-01)
    In recent years, concern has grown for the welfare of domesticated animals in different production systems (Appleby and Hughes, 1997). Poor welfare can result in poor performance and productivity. However, the consumers are also requesting more welfare-friendly systems, as reflected by the importance that ‘organic’ and ‘free-range’ products have gained in our markets. Furthermore, there are ethical reasons for safeguarding the welfare of animals in our care. Thus, it is scientists’ task to be able to develop methods and techniques that can help to assess the welfare objectively. Traditionally, welfare assessment relied on the study of behaviour and the measurement of endocrine parameters. Acute phase response mediators and products, such as pro-inflammatory cytokines and acute phase proteins, emerged recently as potential indicators of infection and herd health status (Eckersall, 2000; Petersen et al., 2004). Thus, investigating the effects of husbandry and low-dose lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge on the acute phase response of young pigs can give valuable information on the use of these immune parameters as health and welfare indicators in pigs.
  • Studies on growth rates in pigs and the effect of birth weight

    Lynch, P.B.; Cahill, A.; Lawlor, Peadar G; Boyle, Laura; O’Doherty, J.V.; le Dividich, J. (Teagasc, 2006-03-01)
    The purpose of this study was to assess some environmental and management factors that affect growth performance on commercial pig units. In experiment 1, a survey was carried out on 22 pig units of known growth performance in south-west Ireland to compare management factors between those showing poor and good growth rates. Low growth rate appears to be due to the cumulative effect of a combination of factors. Experiment 2 was conducted to determine the effects of providing an additional feeder on performance of weaned piglets. No benefits were recorded. Feed consumed from the additional feeder was a replacement for feed that otherwise would have been consumed from the control hopper feeder. Experiment 3 was designed to determine if pig performance and efficiency of growth were affected by weight at birth and at weaning. Lightweight pigs showed inferior growth performance up to the finisher period. Although they compensated some of the inferior growth towards the time of slaughter, they never reached the weights of the heavy birth-weight animals. Males were either significantly heavier or tended to be heavier than females throughout. There was no significant difference between the sexes in the number of days to slaughter. Light and heavy pigs did not differ in the levels of IGF-1 in their blood plasma; however lightweight pigs had significantly lower IgG preweaning. Experiment 4 aimed to determine whether piglet birth weight influenced growth performance, plasma IGF-1 concentrations and muscle fibre characteristics at day 42 of life. At slaughter (Day 42) light birth weight pigs were significantly (P < 0.001) lighter. Plasma IGF-1 concentration was lower by 28% (P=0.06) in light pigs. Muscle fibre cross sectional area and total fibre number were not significantly different between groups. This study should be repeated with bigger numbers.
  • Pig producer perspectives on the use of meat inspection as an animal health and welfare diagnostic tool in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland

    Devitt, Catherine; Boyle, Laura; Teixeira, D. L; O’Connell, N. E; Hawe, M.; Hanlon, Alison (Biomed Central, 2016-02-09)
    Background Currently, there is growing interest in developing ante and post mortem meat inspection (MI) to incorporate measures of pig health and welfare for use as a diagnostic tool on pig farms. However, the success of the development of the MI process requires stakeholder engagement with the process. Knowledge gaps and issues of trust can undermine the effective exchange and utilisation of information across the supply chain. A social science research methodology was employed to establish stakeholder perspectives towards the development of MI to include measures of pig health and welfare. In this paper the findings of semi-structured telephone interviews with 18 pig producers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are presented. Results Producers recognised the benefit of the utilisation of MI data as a health and welfare diagnostic tool. This acknowledgment, however, was undermined for some by dissatisfaction with the current system of MI information feedback, by trust and fairness concerns, and by concerns regarding the extent to which data would be used in the producers’ interests. Tolerance of certain animal welfare issues may also have a negative impact on how producers viewed the potential of MI data. The private veterinary practitioner was viewed as playing a vital role in assisting them with the interpretation of MI data for herd health planning. Conclusions The development of positive relationships based on trust, commitment and satisfaction across the supply chain may help build a positive environment for the effective utilisation of MI data in improving pig health and welfare. The utilisation of MI as a diagnostic tool would benefit from the development of a communication strategy aimed at building positive relationships between stakeholders in the pig industry.
  • Managing variability in decision making in swine growing-finishing units

    Agostini, Piero, d S; Manzanilla, Edgar, G; de Blas, Carlos; Fahey, Alan, G; da Silva, Caio, A; Gasa, Josep (Biomed Central, 2015-09-01)
    Analysis of data collected from pig farms may be useful to understand factors affecting pig health and productive performance. However, obtaining these data and drawing conclusions from them can be done at different levels and presents several challenges. In the present study, information from 688 batches of growing-finishing (GF) pigs (average initial and final body weight of 19.1 and 108.5 kg respectively) from 404 GF farms integrated in 7 companies was obtained between July 2008 and July 2010 in Spain by survey. Management and facility factors associated with feed conversion ratio (FCR) and mortality were studied by multiple linear regression analysis in each single company (A to G) and in an overall database (OD). Factors studied were geographic location of the farm, trimester the pigs entered the farm, breed of sire and sex segregation in pens (BREGENSEG), use of circovirus vaccine, number of origins the pigs were obtained from, age of the farm, percentage of slatted floor, type of feeder, drinker and ventilation, number of phases and form of feed, antibiotic administration system, water source, and number and initial weight of pigs. Results In two or more companies studied and/or in OD, the trimester when pigs were placed in the farm, BREGENSEG, number of origins of the pigs, age of the farm and initial body weight were factors associated with FCR. Regarding mortality, trimester of placement, number of origins of the pigs, water source in the farm, number of pigs placed and the initial body weight were relevant factors. Age of the farm, antibiotic administration system, and water source were only provided by some of the studied companies and were not included in the OD model, however, when analyzed in particular companies these three variables had an important effect and may be variables of interest in companies that do not record them. Conclusions Analysing data collected from farms at different levels helps better understand factors associated with productive performance of pig herds. Out of the studied factors trimester of placement and number of origins of the pigs were the most relevant factors associated with FCR and mortality.
  • The Effect of Feeding Bt MON810 Maize to Pigs for 110 Days on Intestinal Microbiota

    Buzoianu, Stefan G.; Walsh, Maria C.; Rea, Mary C.; O'Sullivan, Orla; Crispie, Fiona; Cotter, Paul D.; Ross, R. Paul; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Lawlor, Peadar G (PLOS, 2012-05-04)
    Objective To assess the effects of feeding Bt MON810 maize to pigs for 110 days on the intestinal microbiota. Methodology/Principal Findings Forty male pigs (~40 days old) were blocked by weight and litter ancestry and assigned to one of four treatments; 1) Isogenic maize-based diet for 110 days (Isogenic); 2) Bt maize-based diet (MON810) for 110 days (Bt); 3) Isogenic maize-based diet for 30 days followed by a Bt maize-based diet for 80 days (Isogenic/Bt); 4) Bt maize-based diet for 30 days followed by an isogenic maize-based diet for 80 days (Bt/Isogenic). Enterobacteriaceae, Lactobacillus and total anaerobes were enumerated in the feces using culture-based methods on days 0, 30, 60 and 100 of the study and in ileal and cecal digesta on day 110. No differences were found between treatments for any of these counts at any time point. The relative abundance of cecal bacteria was also determined using high-throughput 16 S rRNA gene sequencing. No differences were observed in any bacterial taxa between treatments, with the exception of the genus Holdemania which was more abundant in the cecum of pigs fed the isogenic/Bt treatment compared to pigs fed the Bt treatment (0.012 vs 0.003%; P≤0.05). Conclusions/Significance Feeding pigs a Bt maize-based diet for 110 days did not affect counts of any of the culturable bacteria enumerated in the feces, ileum or cecum. Neither did it influence the composition of the cecal microbiota, with the exception of a minor increase in the genus Holdemania. As the role of Holdemania in the intestine is still under investigation and no health abnormalities were observed, this change is not likely to be of clinical significance. These results indicate that feeding Bt maize to pigs in the context of its influence on the porcine intestinal microbiota is safe.
  • Offspring subcutaneous adipose markers are sensitive to the timing of maternal gestational weight gain

    Giblin, Linda; Darimont, Christian; Leone, Patricia; McNamara, Louise B.; Blancher, Florence; Berry, Donagh P.; Castaneda-Gutierrez, Euridice; Lawlor, Peadar G (Biomed Central, 2015-03-08)
    Background Excessive maternal weight gain during pregnancy impacts on offspring health. This study focused on the timing of maternal gestational weight gain, using a porcine model with mothers of normal pre-pregnancy weight. Methods Trial design ensured the trajectory of maternal gestational weight gain differed across treatments in early, mid and late gestation. Diet composition did not differ. On day 25 gestation, sows were assigned to one of five treatments: Control sows received a standard gestation diet of 2.3 kg/day (30 MJ DE/day) from early to late gestation (day 25–110 gestation). E sows received 4.6 kg food/day in early gestation (day 25–50 gestation). M sows doubled their food intake in mid gestation (day 50–80 gestation). EM sows doubled their food intake during both early and mid gestation (day 25–80 gestation). L sows consumed 3.5 kg food/day in late gestation (day 80–110 gestation). Offspring body weight and food intake levels were measured from birth to adolescence. Markers of lipid metabolism, hypertrophy and inflammation were investigated in subcutaneous adipose tissue of adolescent offspring. Results The trajectory of gestational weight gain differed across treatments. However total gestational weight gain did not differ except for EM sows who were the heaviest and fattest mothers at parturition. Offspring birth weight did not differ across treatments. Subcutaneous adipose tissue from EM offspring differed significantly from controls, with elevated mRNA levels of lipogenic (CD36, ACACB and LPL), nutrient transporters (FABP4 and GLUT4), lipolysis (HSL and ATGL), adipocyte size (MEST) and inflammation (PAI-1) indicators. The subcutaneous adipose depot from L offspring exhibited elevated levels of CD36, ACACB, LPL, GLUT4 and FABP4 mRNA transcripts compared to control offspring. Conclusions Increasing gestational weight gain in early gestation had the greatest impact on offspring postnatal growth rate. Increasing maternal food allowance in late gestation appeared to shift the offspring adipocyte focus towards accumulation of fat. Mothers who gained the most weight during gestation (EM mothers) gave birth to offspring whose subcutaneous adipose tissue, at adolescence, appeared hyperactive compared to controls. This study concluded that mothers, who gained more than the recommended weight gain in mid and late gestation, put their offspring adipose tissue at risk of dysfunction.
  • Differences in leukocyte profile, gene expression, and metabolite status of dairy cows with or without sole ulcers

    O'Driscoll, Keelin; McCabe, Matthew; Earley, Bernadette (Elsevier, 2014-12-31)
    Sole ulcers are one of the most severe pathologies causing lameness in dairy cows and are associated with abnormal behavior and impaired production performance. However, little is known about how or whether lameness caused by sole ulcers affects the cow systemically. This study compared hematology profile, leukocyte gene expression, and physiological responses [metabolite, cortisol, the endogenous steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and haptoglobin concentrations] of cows with sole ulcers and healthy cows. Twelve clinically lame cows (lame) were identified as having at least one sole ulcer and no other disorder, and matched with a cow that had good locomotion and no disorders (sound), using days in milk, liveweight, body condition score, and diet. Blood samples were taken from all 24 cows within 24 h of sole ulcer diagnosis. Leukocyte counts were obtained using an automated cell counter, cortisol and DHEA concentration by ELISA, and plasma haptoglobin, urea, total protein, creatine kinase, and glucose were analyzed on an Olympus analyzer. Expression of 16 genes associated with lameness or stress were estimated using reverse transcription-PCR. Data were analyzed using the MIXED procedure in SAS software (version 9.3; SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Lame cows had a higher neutrophil percentage, a numerically lower lymphocyte percentage, and tended to have a higher neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio than sound cows. Serum cortisol and DHEA concentrations were higher in lame than in sound cows. Lame cows also tended to have higher haptoglobin and glucose levels than sound, as well as higher protein yet lower urea levels. Sound cows tended to have higher relative expression of the gene coding for colony-stimulating factor 2 than lame, but in all other cases where differences were detected in cytokine gene expression (IL-1α, IL-1β, CXCL8, and IL-10), relative gene expression in sound cows tended to be, or was, lower than in lame. Relative expression of MMP-13, GR-α, Fas, haptoglobin, and CD62L were, or tended to be, higher in lame than sound cows. A high neutrophil:lymphocyte ratio in combination with higher cortisol levels in cows with ulcers is indicative of physiological stress. Moreover, increased DHEA and a higher cortisol:DHEA ratio, as well as a tendency for higher haptoglobin levels and increased haptoglobin mRNA expression, are indicative of systemic inflammation. Increased cytokine mRNA expression indicates activation of the immune system compared with healthy cows. Increased expression of MMP-13 mRNA has been found in cows with impaired locomotion and thus could be implicated in development of claw horn disorders.
  • Effect of housing on rubber slat mats during pregnancy on the behaviour and welfare of sows in farrowing crates

    Calderon Diaz, J.A.; Boyle, Laura (Teagasc (Agriculture and Food Development Authority), Ireland, 2014)
    The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of flooring type during gestation, lameness and limb lesion scores on welfare and behaviour of sows in farrowing crates. Sixty sows group-housed during gestation in pens with solid concrete floored feeding stalls and a concrete, fully slatted group area either uncovered (CON; n = 30) or covered with 10 mm thick rubber slat mats (RUB; n = 30) were transferred to the farrowing crate at 110d of gestation (-5d). Lameness was scored on -5d and at weaning (28 d postfarrowing). Limb lesions were scored on -5d, 24 h later (-4d), 3 to 5 days post farrowing and at weaning (i.e., day 28 post farrowing). Sows were video recorded for 24 h on -5d, after the last piglet was born (FARROW) and prior to weaning. Videos were sampled every 10 min and an index of the proportion of time spent in different postures (standing [S], ventral [VL] and lateral lying [LL] and total lying) and number of postural changes was calculated. Median scores were calculated for limb lesions and classified as ≤ median or > median. Postural data were tested for normality and analysed using mixed model equations methodology. Flooring during gestation did not affect any of the variables recorded in this study. However, RUB sows tended to make more postural changes than CON sows (P = 0.10). Sows with swelling scores > median spent more time LL (68.9 vs. 63.1 ± 2.19%; P < 0.05) and less time VL (19.9 vs. 25.8 ± 2.27%; P < 0.05) than sows with swelling scores ≤ median. Time spent S and VL decreased and LL increased at FARROW compared to -5d and prior to weaning (P < 0.01). We found no effect of flooring type during gestation on welfare and behaviour in the farrowing crate. Factors such as limb lesions and adaptation to confinement (i.e., time spent inside the farrowing crate) appeared to have a greater influence on sow welfare and behaviour in farrowing crates than the flooring on which they were housed during gestation.
  • The effect of mixing entire male pigs prior to transport to slaughter on behaviour, welfare and carcass lesions

    van Staaveren, Nienke; Teixeira, Dayane; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura (2014-10-14)
    Research is needed to validate lesions recorded at meat inspection as indicators of pig welfare on farm. The aims were to determine the influence of mixing pigs on carcass lesions and to establish whether such lesions correlate with pig behaviour and lesions scored on farm. Aggressive and mounting behaviour of pigs in three single sex pens was recorded on Day −5, −2, and −1 relative to slaughter (Day 0). On Day 0 pigs were randomly allocated to 3 treatments (n = 20/group) over 5 replicates: males mixed with females (MF), males mixed with males (MM), and males unmixed (MUM). Aggressive and mounting behaviours were recorded on Day 0 at holding on farm and lairage. Skin/tail lesions were scored according to severity at the farm (Day −1), lairage, and on the carcass (Day 0). Effect of treatment and time on behaviour and lesions were analysed by mixed models. Spearman rank correlations between behaviour and lesion scores and between scores recorded at different stages were determined. In general, MM performed more aggressive behaviour (50.4 ± 10.72) than MUM (20.3 ± 9.55, P < 0.05) and more mounting (30.9 ± 9.99) than MF (11.4 ± 3.76) and MUM (9.8 ± 3.74, P < 0.05). Skin lesion scores increased between farm (Day −1) and lairage (P < 0.001), but this tended to be significant only for MF and MM (P = 0.08). There was no effect of treatment on carcass lesions and no associations were found with fighting/mounting. Mixing entire males prior to slaughter stimulated mounting and aggressive behaviour but did not influence carcass lesion scores. Carcass skin/tail lesions scores were correlated with scores recorded on farm (rskin = 0.21 and rtail = 0.18, P < 0.01) suggesting that information recorded at meat inspection could be used as indicators of pig welfare on farm.
  • Evaluation of the Efficacy and Safety of a Marine-Derived Bacillus Strain for Use as an In-Feed Probiotic for Newly Weaned Pigs

    Prieto, Maria Luz; O'Sullivan, Laurie; Tan, Shiau Pin; McLoughlin, Peter; Hughes, Helen; O'Donovan, Orla; Rea, Mary C.; Kent, Robert M.; Cassidy, Joseph P.; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Lawlor, Peadar G (PLOS, 2014-02-26)
    Forty eight individual pigs (8.7±0.26 kg) weaned at 28±1 d of age were used in a 22-d study to evaluate the effect of oral administration of a Bacillus pumilus spore suspension on growth performance and health indicators. Treatments (n = 16) were: (1) non-medicated diet; (2) medicated diet with apramycin (200 mg/kg) and pharmacological levels of zinc oxide (2,500 mg zinc/kg) and (3) B. pumilus diet (non-medicated diet + 1010 spores/day B. pumilus). Final body weight and average daily gain tended to be lower (P = 0.07) and feed conversion ratio was worsened (P<0.05) for the medicated treatment compared to the B. pumilus treatment. Ileal E. coli counts were lower for the B. pumilus and medicated treatments compared to the non-medicated treatment (P<0.05), perhaps as a result of increased ileal propionic acid concentrations (P<0.001). However, the medicated treatment reduced fecal (P<0.001) and cecal (P<0.05) Lactobacillus counts and tended to reduce the total cecal short chain fatty acid (SCFA) concentration (P = 0.10). Liver weights were lighter and concentrations of liver enzymes higher (P<0.05) in pigs on the medicated treatment compared to those on the non-medicated or B. pumilus treatments. Pigs on the B. pumilus treatment had lower overall lymphocyte and higher granulocyte percentages (P<0.001) and higher numbers of jejunal goblet cells (P<0.01) than pigs on either of the other two treatments or the non-medicated treatment, respectively. However, histopathological examination of the small intestine, kidneys and liver revealed no abnormalities. Overall, the B. pumilus treatment decreased ileal E. coli counts in a manner similar to the medicated treatment but without the adverse effects on growth performance, Lactobacillus counts, cecal SCFA concentration and possible liver toxicity experienced with the medicated treatment.
  • The Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Spent Cider Yeast on the Swine Distal Gut Microbiome

    Upadrasta, Aditya; O'Sulivan, Lisa; O'Sullivan, Orla; Sexton, Noel; Lawlor, Peadar G; Hill, Colin; Fitzgerald, Gerald F.; Stanton, Catherine; Ross, R Paul (PLOS, 2013-10-09)
    Background: There is an increasing need for alternatives to antibiotics for promoting animal health, given the increasing problems associated with antibiotic resistance. In this regard, we evaluated spent cider yeast as a potential probiotic for modifying the gut microbiota in weanling pigs using pyrosequencing of 16S rRNA gene libraries. Methodology and Principal Findings: Piglets aged 24–26 days were assigned to one of two study groups; control (n = 12) and treatment (n = 12). The control animals were fed with a basal diet and the treatment animals were fed with basal diet in combination with cider yeast supplement (500 ml cider yeast containing ,7.6 log CFU/ml) for 21 days. Faecal samples were collected for 16s rRNA gene compositional analysis. 16S rRNA compositional sequencing analysis of the faecal samples collected from day 0 and day 21 revealed marked differences in microbial diversity at both the phylum and genus levels between the control and treatment groups. This analysis confirmed that levels of Salmonella and Escherichia were significantly decreased in the treatment group, compared with the control (P,0.001). This data suggest a positive influence of dietary supplementation with live cider yeast on the microbial diversity of the pig distal gut. Conclusions/Significance: The effect of dietary cider yeast on porcine gut microbial communities was characterized for the first time using 16S rRNA gene compositional sequencing. Dietary cider yeast can potentially alter the gut microbiota, however such changes depend on their endogenous microbiota that causes a divergence in relative response to that given diet.
  • Effects of Feeding Bt Maize to Sows during Gestation and Lactation on Maternal and Offspring Immunity and Fate of Transgenic Material

    Buzoianu, Stefan G.; Walsh, Maria C.; Rea, Mary C.; O'Donovan, Orla; Gelencser, Eva; Ujhelyi, Gabriella; Szabo, Erika; Nagy, Andras; Ross, R Paul; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Lawlor, Peadar G (PLOS, 2012-10-16)
    Background: We aimed to determine the effect of feeding transgenic maize to sows during gestation and lactation on maternal and offspring immunity and to assess the fate of transgenic material. Methodology/Principal Findings: On the day of insemination, sows were assigned to one of two treatments (n = 12/treatment); 1) non-Bt control maize diet or 2) Bt-MON810 maize diet, which were fed for ~143 days throughout gestation and lactation. Immune function was assessed by leukocyte phenotyping, haematology and Cry1Ab-specific antibody presence in blood on days 0, 28 and 110 of gestation and at the end of lactation. Peripheral-blood mononuclear cell cytokine production was investigated on days 28 and 110 of gestation. Haematological analysis was performed on offspring at birth (n = 12/treatment). Presence of the cry1Ab transgene was assessed in sows' blood and faeces on day 110 of gestation and in blood and tissues of offspring at birth. Cry1Ab protein presence was assessed in sows' blood during gestation and lactation and in tissues of offspring at birth. Blood monocyte count and percentage were higher (P<0.05), while granulocyte percentage was lower (P<0.05) in Bt maize-fed sows on day 110 of gestation. Leukocyte count and granulocyte count and percentage were lower (P<0.05), while lymphocyte percentage was higher (P<0.05) in offspring of Bt maize-fed sows. Bt maize-fed sows had a lower percentage of monocytes on day 28 of lactation and of CD4+CD8+ lymphocytes on day 110 of gestation, day 28 of lactation and overall (P<0.05). Cytokine production was similar between treatments. Transgenic material or Cry1Ab-specific antibodies were not detected in sows or offspring. Conclusions/Significance: Treatment differences observed following feeding of Bt maize to sows did not indicate inflammation or allergy and are unlikely to be of major importance. These results provide additional data for Bt maize safety assessment.

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