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

  • Feed Restriction Reveals Distinct Serum Metabolome Profiles in Chickens Divergent in Feed Efficiency Traits

    Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara; Siegerstetter, Sina-Catherine; Magowan, Elizabeth; Lawlor, Peadar; O’Connell, Niamh; Zebeli, Qendrim; European Union; 311794 (MDPI AG, 2019-02-25)
    Restrictive feeding influences systemic metabolism of nutrients; however, this impact has not been evaluated in chickens of diverging feed efficiency. This study investigated the effect of ad libitum versus restrictive feeding (85% of ad libitum) on the serum metabolome and white blood cell composition in chickens of diverging residual feed intake (RFI; metric for feed efficiency). Blood samples were collected between days 33 and 37 post-hatch. While serum glucose was similar, serum uric acid and cholesterol were indicative of the nutritional status and chicken’s RFI, respectively. Feed restriction and RFI rank caused distinct serum metabolome profiles, whereby restrictive feeding also increased the blood lymphocyte proportion. Most importantly, 10 amino acids were associated with RFI rank in birds, whereas restrictive feeding affected almost all detected lysophosphatidylcholines, with 3 being higher and 6 being lower in restrictively compared to ad libitum fed chickens. As indicated by relevance networking, isoleucine, lysine, valine, histidine, and ornithine were the most discriminant for high RFI, whereas 3 biogenic amines (carnosine, putrescine, and spermidine) and 3 diacyl-glycerophospholipids (38:4, 38:5, and 40:5) positively correlated with feed intake and body weight gain, respectively. Only for taurine, feed intake mostly explained the RFI-associated variation, whereas for most metabolites, other host physiological factors played a greater role for the RFI-associated differences, and was potentially related to insulin-signaling, phospholipase A2, and arachidonic acid metabolism. Alterations in the hepatic synthesis of long-chain fatty acids and the need for precursors for gluconeogenesis due to varying energy demand may explain the marked differences in serum metabolite profiles in ad libitum and restrictively fed birds.
  • Effect of split marketing on the welfare, performance, and carcass traits of finishing pigs

    Conte, S.; Lawlor, Peadar; O'Connell, N.; Boyle, Laura A; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2012-01-01)
    The aim of this study was to compare a split marketing (SM) strategy, in which the heaviest pigs in a group are removed and slaughtered earlier than the others, with an all-out (AO) marketing strategy, in which all pigs are removed from the pen simultaneously and slaughtered on the same day, in terms of welfare, performance, and carcass traits of noncastrated (i.e., intact) male and female pigs. The experimental treatments were arranged in a 2 × 2 factorial array with 1) marketing strategy (SM vs. AO) and 2) sex (males vs. females), which yielded 4 treatment groups of 14 pigs (73.1 ± 4.8 kg): male SM, male AO, female SM, and female AO (7 replicates/group). Pigs in AO groups were all slaughtered after 6 wk on trial, whereas in SM groups the 3 heaviest pigs were removed and slaughtered 2 wk before the remainder of the group, which were slaughtered at the same time as the AO pigs. Pigs were fed a liquid diet from a long trough 3 times daily. Behavioral observations were conducted before and after SM, the day of SM, and 1 and 2 wk later. Behavior was recorded both during and between feed events, and skin lesions were scored on all, except the 3 pigs removed from SM groups before and 2 wk after SM. Growth performance, feed efficiency, and carcass traits were recorded. The number of aggressive interactions during feed events decreased after the 3 pigs were removed from SM groups. This reduction in aggressive interactions was observed on the day of SM in male groups (before SM: 24.3 vs. the day of SM: 14.7, SED = 3.31, P < 0.05 for interaction) and in subsequent observations in female groups (before SM: 21.4 vs. days after SM: 13.4, SED = 3.31, P < 0.05 for interaction). However, SM had no effect on behaviors recorded between feed events or on the number and severity of skin lesions (P > 0.10). There were no differences between the 11 remaining pigs in SM groups and the 14 pigs in AO groups in terms of growth performance, feed efficiency, and carcass traits of female or intact male pigs (P > 0.10). However, reduced within-pen CV in carcass weight was detected in pigs from SM groups compared with pigs from AO groups (8.6 vs. 10.9, SEM = 0.72, P < 0.05). Therefore, in restrictively fed pigs, a SM strategy improved the welfare of both female and intact male pigs by reducing aggressive interactions during feeding but had no effect on performance or carcass traits.
  • Longitudinal study of the effect of rubber slat mats on locomotory ability, body, limb and claw lesions, and dirtiness of group housed sows

    Calderon Diaz, Julia; Fahey, A. G.; KilBride, A. L.; Green, L. E.; Boyle, Laura A; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2013-08-01)
    This study evaluated the influence of floor type on sow welfare with particular focus on lameness, claw lesions (CL), and injuries. The study used 164 gilts housed in groups of 8 from AI to 110 d of pregnancy in pens with concrete (n = 84) slatted floor left uncovered or covered by 10-mm rubber slat mats (n = 80) through 2 parities. Lameness (0 = normal to 5 = severe), limb (0 = normal to 6 = severe) and body (0 = normal to 5 = severe) lesions, and manure on the body (MOB; score 0 to 2) were recorded at AI, 24 to 72 h postmixing, between 50 and 70 d of pregnancy, and 2 wk before farrowing. Claw lesions (score 0 = normal to 3 = severe) were recorded at AI and between 50 and 70 d of pregnancy. The dirtiness and wetness of the floors was scored weekly (score 0 = clean to 4 = >75% of the pen soiled/wet). Data from the first and second parities were analyzed separately. Sows were categorized as nonlame (score ≤ 1) or lame (score ≥ 2). Median (Me) scores were calculated for CL and body and limb lesions and were classified as less than or equal to the median or greater than the median lesion scores. Sows on rubber slat mats had a reduced risk of lameness during both parities (P < 0.01) compared with sows on concrete. They also had an increased risk of scores greater than the median for toe overgrowth (Me = 2 and Me = 3 in the first and second parity, respectively) and heel sole crack (HSC; Me = 3) during both parities (P < 0.01) and for cracks in the wall (CW; Me = 4) and white line damage (WL; Me = 4; P < 0.01) in the first and second parity, respectively. There was a reduced risk of lameness in sows with scores greater than the median for HSC (P = 0.05) in the first parity and WL (Me = 3; P < 0.01) and CW (Me = 3; P < 0.05) in the second parity. Wounds (Me = 3) and severe lesions (Me = 0) on the limbs with scores greater than the median were associated with an increased risk of lameness (P < 0.01) in the first and second parity, respectively. Sows on rubber slat mats had a reduced risk of scores greater than the median for swellings (Me = 4) and wounds (P < 0.01) during both parities. Pens with rubber slat mats were dirtier than uncovered pens (P < 0.01); however, there was no association between MOB and flooring type. There was also no association between body lesion score and flooring type. In this study, CL were not associated with an increased risk of lameness. Therefore, even though rubber slat mats were associated with an increased risk of CL, they improved the welfare of group housed sows by reducing the risk of lameness and limb lesions.
  • Effects of gestation housing system and floor type during lactation on locomotory ability; body, limb, and claw lesions; and lying-down behavior of lactating sows

    Calderon Diaz, Julia; Fahey, A. G.; Boyle, Laura A; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2014-04-01)
    This study evaluated the influence of housing system during gestation and floor type during lactation on the welfare and lying-down behavior of lactating sows. Multiparous sows (n = 85) were housed either in individual gestation stalls (n = 42) or loose (n = 43) in a single dynamic group with 2 electronic sow feeders moved to farrowing crates on either slatted steel (n = 48) or cast iron (n = 37) flooring. Lameness (0 = normal to 5 = severely lame) was scored on transfer to the farrowing crate (-5 d). Limb and body lesions were recorded on -5 d, 24 h after entering the farrowing crate (-4 d), 10-d postpartum, and before weaning. Claw lesions were recorded on -5 d and before weaning, whereas all behavioral observations were made on -5, -4, and 10 d. Median (Me) scores were calculated for claw, body, and limb lesions and classified as either less than or equal to the Me or greater than the Me lesion scores. Sows were classified as nonlame (£ 1) or lame (³ 2). Loose-housed sows had an increased (P < 0.01) risk of lameness; a reduced (P < 0.05) risk for claw lesions, particularly white line damage, horizontal wall cracks, and dewclaw injuries; and a reduced (P < 0.05) risk for calluses and bursitis on the limbs compared to stall-housed sows. Sows housed on cast iron floors during lactation had a reduced (P < 0.01) risk for heel overgrowth and erosion and heel-sole cracks compared with sows on slatted steel floors. There was no (P > 0.05) association between flooring type during lactation and body lesion score. On -4 d, loose-housed sows had a shorter latency to lie down (P < 0.01), spent more time inactive (P < 0.05), and shifted weight between the limbs more often (P = 0.05) while standing compared with stall-housed sows. Lame sows had a shorter (P < 0.01) latency to lie down compared to nonlame sows on -5 and -4 d. In conclusion, there was an increased risk of lameness in sows housed loose compared to those housed in gestation stalls on transfer to the farrowing crate. Claw health deteriorated in the farrowing crate regardless of gestation housing or floor type but the deterioration in claw health was increased on slatted steel compared to on cast iron
  • Can increased dietary fibre level and a single enrichment device reduce the risk of tail biting in undocked growing-finishing pigs in fully slatted systems?

    Chou, Jen-Yun; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Sandercock, Dale A.; D’Eath, Rick B.; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Scotland’s Rural College; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2020-10-30)
    This study evaluated the effectiveness of combined dietary and enrichment strategies to manage tail biting in pigs with intact tails in a conventional fully-slatted floor housing system. A 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design was used. Pigs had either a high fibre (weaner 5.3% and finisher 11.6% of crude fibre) or standard fibre diet (weaner 3.7% and finisher 5.9% of crude fibre). In the weaner stage, pigs had either a spruce wooden post (supplied in a wall-mounted dispenser) or a rubber floor toy as a enrichment device, and in the finisher stage, they had either the same or alternate enrichment item. Six hundred and seventy-two pigs were assigned to 48 pens of 14 pigs and followed from weaning until slaughter. Individual tail lesion scores and pen level behaviours were directly recorded every 2 weeks. Twenty-six pens had tail biting outbreaks and 161 injured pigs needed removal for treatment. Pigs fed with the high fibre diet performed more tail biting (p < 0.05) and tended to have a worse tail damage scores than those fed the standard fibre diet (p = 0.08). Pigs which had the floor toy as weaners and wood as finishers tended to have fewer tail lesions in the finisher stage than their counterparts (p = 0.06). Pigs receiving the floor toy as enrichment interacted with the enrichment more frequently overall (p < 0.001) and performed fewer harmful behaviours in the weaner stage (p < 0.05). Overall, higher fibre in the diet in a relatively barren environment did not help reduce tail biting or tail lesions. Altering the fibre level in the pigs’ diet and providing a single enrichment device to undocked pigs on fully slatted floors resulted in a high level of tail biting and a large proportion of pigs with partial tail amputation.
  • Does Diversity Matter? Behavioural Differences between Piglets Given Diverse or Similar Forms of Enrichment Pre-Weaning

    Schmitt, Océane; Poidevin, Aurélie; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13S428 (MDPI AG, 2020-10-09)
    This study investigated the behavioural effects of providing different enrichment materials to suckling piglets from 7 days-old until weaning. One object was attached to the pen wall (WALL), and the other was suspended in the middle of the pen (MID). Control group had the hessian fabric in both locations, and the two diverse groups had hessian and bamboo stick in alternate locations (i.e., BMID-HWALL and HMID-BWALL). Piglets behaviour was recorded on D0 (object introduction), D1, D5, D8, D12, and D14; at weaning and 1, 3, 5 and 15 days after. Groups did not differ in approaching or interacting with objects on D0. MID objects attracted more attention than WALL objects (p < 0.01). Piglets interacted more with hessian than bamboo (p < 0.001). They performed more oral manipulation and shaking with hessian (p < 0.001), but more pushing of bamboo (p < 0.001). Interactions with objects increased with time (p < 0.001), especially with hessian (p < 0.01), while interest in bamboo remained unchanged. Control piglets performed more biting than piglets with diverse enrichment (pooled data), both pre- and post-weaning (p < 0.05). Therefore, providing different types of enrichment material can reduce biting behaviour pre- and post-weaning. Hessian was favoured, possibly because this was easier to bite and shake, which were the behaviours most often observed.
  • Strategies to Meet Nutritional Requirements and Reduce Boar Taint in Meat from Entire Male Pigs and Immunocastrates

    Bee, Giuseppe; Quiniou, Nathalie; Maribo, Hanne; Zamaratskaia, Galia; Lawlor, Peadar G. (MDPI AG, 2020-10-23)
    This paper reviews the current knowledge on the nutritional requirements of entire male and immunocastrated pigs to obtain an efficient growth, low boar taint level, and good carcass and meat quality. We present the reasons for offering entire males ad libitum access to the diets in order to optimize their protein deposition potential. Boar taint is one of the major issues in the production of entire males; therefore, the impact of various skatole- and indole-reducing feed ingredients is discussed regarding their efficiency and the possible mechanism affecting skatole and indole production in the hindgut. Entire males have lean carcasses, so their intramuscular fat content can be lower than that of surgical castrates or females and the adipose tissue can be highly unsaturated. The possible nutritional strategies to counteract these effects are summarized. We conclude that immunocastrates can be fed similarly to entire males until the second vaccination. However, due to the metabolic changes occurring shortly after the second vaccination, the requirements for essential amino acids are markedly lower in immunocastrates than in entire males.
  • Effect of dietary inclusion of benzoic acid (VevoVitall®) on the microbial quality of liquid feed and the growth and carcass quality of grow-finisher pigs

    O’ Meara, F.M.; Gardiner, G.E.; O’ Doherty, J.V.; Lawlor, P.G.; Lawlor, Peadar; Teagasc Walsh Scholarship Programme (Elsevier BV, 2020-07)
    Benzoic acid has long been used as a food preservative due to its antibacterial and antifungal effects. Supplementation to pig diets has also been shown to inhibit microbial free amino acid degradation and to control yeast growth in fermented liquid feed. However, the effect of dietary inclusion of benzoic acid (BA) in fresh liquid feed for grow-finisher pigs on feed quality and the resultant effects on pig growth remain unclear. The objective of the current study was to compare four inclusion levels of BA (VevoVitall®) on feed microbial quality and on the growth performance of grow-finisher pigs. Two-hundred and sixteen pigs with a starting weight of 30.0kg (± 7.43 SD) were used in the experiment. The four dietary treatments were as follows: (1) Basal diet + 0kg/t BA (0kg/t BA), (2) Basal diet + 2.5kg/t BA (2.5kg/t BA), (3) Basal diet + 5kg/t BA (5kg/t BA), (4) Basal diet + 10kg/t BA (10kg/t BA). Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) counts in the mixing tank were similar across treatments (P>0.05) but were lower in the troughs for the feed supplemented with 10kg/t BA than for all other treatments (P<0.01). The pH of the 10kg/t BA treatment was also lower than that of the other three treatments. However, this only occurred in the mixing tank (P<0.01), as in the trough, the basal diet had the lowest pH (lower than the other three treatments; P<0.01). Dietary BA inclusion did not affect average daily gain, average daily feed intake, feed conversion efficiency, final live-weight, carcass weight or carcass quality during the experimental period (P>0.05). In conclusion, while BA may limit the growth of LAB in liquid feed and stabilise feed pH, its inclusion in the diet did not improve the growth performance or carcass quality of grow-finisher pigs.
  • Characterization of the lying and rising sequence in lame and non-lame sows

    Mumm, Jared Michael; Calderon Diaz, Julia; Stock, Joseph Daniel; Kerr Johnson, Anna; Ramirez, Alejandro; Azarpajouh, Samaneh; Stalder, Kenneth J.; National Pork Board; #15-004 (Elsevier BV, 2020-05)
    This study aimed to identify possible differences in the lying and standing sequence between lame and non-lame gestating sows. A total of 85 stall-housed sows (average parity 0.9 ± 1.14; range 0–4) were scored for walking lameness on a 3-point scale (1 = normal to 3=severely lame) while moving to a separate gestation stall for recording of one lying-standing event on days 30, 60 and 90 of gestation. A video camera was positioned on the adjacent stall so sows’ profiles were visible. Observations ceased when the sow laid-down and stood-up, or 2.5 h elapsed from recording commencement. From videos, postures and movements that occurred during lying-standing sequences were identified. Time (seconds) from kneeling to shoulder rotation (KSR), shoulder rotation to lying (SRHQ), total time to lie (TLIE); latency to lie (LATENCY; minutes) and number of attempts to successfully lie were recorded. Also, time taken from first leg fold to sit (TLS), time from sit to rise (TSR), and total time to rise (TRISE) were recorded. Sows were re-classified as non-lame (score 1) and lame (scores ≥ 2). Data were analyzed using mixed model methods with gestation day, and lameness as fixed effects and sow the random effect. On average, sows took 14.3 ± 1.39 s for KSR, 7.7 ± 0.79 s for SRHQ, 21.0 ± 1.37 s for TLIE and 63.6 ± 5.97 min for LATENCY. Furthermore, sows took 8.8 ± 2.80 s for TLS, 5.95 ± 1.73 s for TSR, and 10.3 ± 2.02 s for TRISE. There were no associations between lameness status or gestation day with time required for or the likelihood of performing the different movements of the lying and standing sequences (P >  0.05). Except for lame sows tending to sit more while transitioning from lying to standing than non-lame sows (P =  0.09). Seven different lying and 4 different standing combination deviation from the normal sequences, albeit each combination was infrequent and did not allow for statistical analysis. However, all together, deviations from the normal lying and standing sequence accounted for 22.7 % and 35 % of total observations; respectively. Under the conditions of this study, lameness did not influence the time taken or the likelihood of performing different movements and/or postures during normal lying-standing sequences. However, this could be due to lameness recorded here not being severe enough to affect the sequences. The observed deviations suggest that there is variation in the way sows lie and stand although more research is necessary to understand which factors contribute to such variation.
  • Monitoring of Farm-Level Antimicrobial Use to Guide Stewardship: Overview of Existing Systems and Analysis of Key Components and Processes

    Sanders, Pim; Vanderhaeghen, Wannes; Fertner, Mette; Fuchs, Klemens; Obritzhauser, Walter; Agunos, Agnes; Carson, Carolee; Borck Høg, Birgitte; Dalhoff Andersen, Vibe; Chauvin, Claire; et al. (Frontiers, 2020)
    The acknowledgment of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a major health challenge in humans, animals and plants, has led to increased efforts to reduce antimicrobial use (AMU). To better understand factors influencing AMR and implement and evaluate stewardship measures for reducing AMU, it is important to have sufficiently detailed information on the quantity of AMU, preferably at the level of the user (farmer, veterinarian) and/or prescriber or provider (veterinarian, feed mill). Recently, several countries have established or are developing systems for monitoring AMU in animals. The aim of this publication is to provide an overview of known systems for monitoring AMU at farm-level, with a descriptive analysis of their key components and processes. As of March 2020, 38 active farm-level AMU monitoring systems from 16 countries were identified. These systems differ in many ways, including which data are collected, the type of analyses conducted and their respective output. At the same time, they share key components (data collection, analysis, benchmarking, and reporting), resulting in similar challenges to be faced with similar decisions to be made. Suggestions are provided with respect to the different components and important aspects of various data types and methods are discussed. This overview should provide support for establishing or working with such a system and could lead to a better implementation of stewardship actions and a more uniform communication about and understanding of AMU data at farm-level. Harmonization of methods and processes could lead to an improved comparability of outcomes and less confusion when interpreting results across systems. However, it is important to note that the development of systems also depends on specific local needs, resources and aims.
  • Effect of cereal soaking and carbohydrase supplementation on growth, nutrient digestibility and intestinal microbiota in liquid-fed grow-finishing pigs

    Torres-Pitarch, Alberto; Gardiner, Gillian E.; Cormican, Paul; Rea, Mary; Crispie, Fiona; O'Doherty, John V.; Cozannet, Pierre; Ryan, Thomas; Cullen, James; Lawlor, Peadar G.; et al. (Springer Science and Business Media LLC, 2020-01-23)
    This study aimed to determine the impact of fermenting the cereal fraction of the diet (Cferm) and enzyme supplementation (ENZ) on the bacterial composition of the feed, nutrient digestibility, pig growth, feed efciency (FE), intestinal volatile fatty acid (VFA) concentrations and intestinal microbiota composition. A total of 252 grow-fnisher pigs (~ 40.4 kg; 7 pigs/pen) were randomly allocated to 4 diets in a 2 × 2 factorial arrangement for 55d. The diets were: (1) fresh liquid feed (Fresh); (2) Cferm liquid feed (Ferm); (3) Fresh+ENZ and (4) Ferm+ENZ. Cferm increased total tract nutrient digestibility, reduced caecal butyrate and propionate concentrations, and increased average daily gain (ADG). ENZ increased ileal and total tract nutrient digestibility, reduced caecal isobutyrate and propionate concentrations, and improved FE. Bacterial taxa positively correlated with pig growth (Lactobacillus kisonensis in the ileum and Roseburia faecis in the caecum) were more abundant in pigs fed ENZ diets, whereas most of the ileal bacterial taxa negatively correlated with growth (Megasphaera, Bifdobacterium and Streptococcus) had lower abundance in pigs fed Cferm diets. In conclusion, Cferm increased ADG and ENZ improved FE, with these improvements possibly mediated by increased nutrient digestibility, and benefcial modulation of the intestinal microbiota.
  • Big (pig) data and the internet of the swine things: a new paradigm in the industry

    Piñeiro, Carlos; Morales, Joaquín; Rodríguez, María; Aparicio, María; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Koketsu, Yuzo (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019-04-11)
    Implications • Big data collected on farms can be transformed into useful information to improve decision making and maximize productivity. A swine management system consisting of tools (software and devices), with a protocol and standard operative procedures, can generate the necessary information for the decision-making process. • New technologies such as electronic feeders and artificial intelligence systems capturing big data will provide a better understanding of animal requirements and behavior, increasing efficiency and sustainability. • Biosecurity can be improved using tracking devices for farm staff, recording movements real-time to decrease disease risks and consequently, improve health and productive performance.
  • 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.

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