• Effect of genetic group and feed system on locomotion score, clinical lameness and hoof disorders of pasture-based Holstein–Friesian cows

      Olmos, G.; Boyle, Laura; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh; O'Connor, Paula M.; Mee, John F; Hanlon, A. (Cambridge University Press, 2009-01)
      The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of the genetic group of the Holstein–Friesian (HF) and pasture-based feeding system (3 × 2 factorial arrangement) on locomotion score (six gait aspects scored from one to five), clinical lameness and hoof disorders within a seasonal calving milk production system. The three genetic groups compared had an average Economic Breeding Index (EBI) value of 40, 70 and 80: representing the Irish national average genetic merit (LOW-NA), high EBI genetic merit of North American ancestry (HIGH-NA) and high EBI genetic merit of New Zealand ancestry (HIGH-NZ), respectively. Two feed systems were compared: a high grass allowance, low-concentrate system typical of spring-calving herds in Ireland (control) and a high-concentrate system. Data from 126 cows collected across a complete lactation period were analysed using generalised estimating equations and survival analysis. Genetic group of HF had a significant effect on locomotion score, clinical lameness and hoof disorders. Higher EBI cows (HIGH-NA and HIGH-NZ) had lower hazard of poor locomotion score in some gait aspects (e.g. spine curvature) and lower odds of clinical lameness in the first 200 days post-calving (Odds ratios 0.08 and 0.24, respectively, relative to the LOW-NA) and some hoof disorders (e.g. traumatic lesions) compared with LOW-NA cows. The high-concentrate feed system showed a higher incidence and severity of digital dermatitis (P < 0.01). Thus, high EBI cows have better locomotion, fewer cases of clinical lameness and less-severe hoof disorders (i.e. digital dermatitis, white line disease and traumatic lesions) than low EBI cows. These findings have important implications for cow welfare and productivity.
    • Effect of Holstein–Friesian genetic group on peripartum and early lactation haematological and acute phase proteins profiles, health and fertility

      Olmos, G.; Boyle, Laura; Horan, Brendan; Berry, Donagh; Sayers, Riona; Hanlon, A.; Mee, John F (Cambridge University Press, 2009-07)
      Pasture-based Holstein–Friesian cows from three genetic groups differing in the Irish ‘Economic Breeding Index’ (EBI) value and genetic background, namely North-American (NA) national average EBI genetic merit (LOW-NA, n542), North-American high EBI genetic merit (HIGH-NA, n542) and New Zealand (NZ) high EBI genetic merit (HIGH-NZ, n542), were studied. These genetic groups have been selected in different environments: pasture for NZ and confinement for NA. The objective was to determine the effect of genetic group on haematological and acute phase proteins profiles (white blood cell (WBC) counts, red blood cell (RBC) counts, acute phase proteins: serum amyloid A (SAA) and haptoglobin), health (rectal temperature (RT), clinical mastitis (CM) and somatic cell score), calving performance (stillbirth, calving assistance) and post-partum reproductive parameters (endometritis and ovarian cyclicity). Blood sampling and data recording took place 3 weeks pre-calving up to 7 weeks post-calving. Linear mixed models, logistic regression and generalised estimating equations were used for data analysis. HIGH-NZ animals had the highest ( P,0.05) RBC mean corpuscular volume (50.0 fl), exhibited a different WBC distribution pattern ( P,0.05) and had the lowest ( P,0.05) mean RT (38.48C) for the first 10 days post-calving. These findings suggest enhanced reticulocyte turnover, peripartum response mechanisms and thermoregulation in the HIGH-NZ compared to the other two genetic groups. LOW-NA animals had the highest SAA peak throughout the peripartum period (55.12 mg/l, P,0.05) and a tendency for higher somatic cell scores ( P,0.10) in early lactation. The HIGH-NA animals had the lowest incidence of udder quarter milk sample bacteria at calving, suggesting better udder health when commencing lactation. No differences were detected between genetic groups in calving performance, post-partum reproductive parameters or CM in the first 42 days post-calving. These results suggest that while inherited peripartum adaptation strategies have been developed by the different genetic groups selected in different environments (pasture5NZ v. confinement5NA), such differences have minimal impact on peripartum clinical health.
    • The effect of mixing entire male pigs prior to transport to slaughter on behaviour, welfare and carcass lesions

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Teixeira, Dayane L.; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (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.
    • Good animal welfare makes economic sense: potential of pig abattoir meat inspection as a welfare surveillance tool

      Harley, Sarah; More, Simon J; Boyle, Laura; O'Connell, Niamh E.; Hanlon, A.; Wellcome Trust (Biomed Central, 2012-06-27)
      During abattoir meat inspection pig carcasses are partially or fully condemned upon detection of disease that poses a risk to public health or welfare conditions that cause animal suffering e.g. fractures. This incurs direct financial losses to producers and processors. Other health and welfare-related conditions may not result in condemnation but can necessitate ‘trimming’ of the carcass e.g. bruising, and result in financial losses to the processor. Since animal health is a component of animal welfare these represent a clear link between suboptimal pig welfare and financial losses to the pig industry. Meat inspection data can be used to inform herd health programmes, thereby reducing the risk of injury and disease and improving production efficiency. Furthermore, meat inspection has the potential to contribute to surveillance of animal welfare. Such data could contribute to reduced losses to producers and processors through lower rates of carcass condemnations, trimming and downgrading in conjunction with higher pig welfare standards on farm. Currently meat inspection data are under-utilised in the EU, even as a means of informing herd health programmes. This includes the island of Ireland but particularly the Republic. This review describes the current situation with regard to meat inspection regulation, method, data capture and utilisation across the EU, with special reference to the island of Ireland. It also describes the financial losses arising from poor animal welfare (and health) on farms. This review seeks to contribute to efforts to evaluate the role of meat inspection as a surveillance tool for animal welfare on-farm, using pigs as a case example.
    • 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, Dayane L.; O'Connell, Niamh E.; Hawe, M.; Hanlon, A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 11/S/107 (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.
    • Prevalence of welfare outcomes in the weaner and finisher stages of the production cycle on 31 Irish pig farms

      van Staaveren, Nienke; Calderón Díaz, Julia A.; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Hanlon, A.; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; 11/S/107 (Biomed Central, 2018-03-27)
      Background Knowledge on the most prevalent welfare problems for pigs in different production stages is required to improve herd management plans. Thirty-one farrow-to-finish pig farms were visited between July and November 2015 to assess the welfare of pigs using the multicriteria approach of the Welfare Quality® protocol. On each farm, 6 pens were selected using proportionate stratified sampling in the first weaner (S1, 4 to 8 wks), second weaner (S2, 8 to 13 wks) and finisher stage (S3, 13 to 23 wks), excluding hospital pens. Each pen was observed for 10 min and the number of pigs affected by different welfare outcomes was recorded. The percentage of pigs affected was calculated and ranked to identify the most prevalent outcomes within each production stage. Differences between production stages were analysed using generalised linear mixed models for binomial data with pen within stage and farm as a random effect. Results Tail and ear lesions showed the highest prevalence; however, large variation was observed between farms. In S1 the most prevalent welfare outcomes (presented as median prevalence) were poor body condition (4.4%), lethargic pigs (1.5%), scouring (20.3% of pens) and huddling (3.7%). In S2 and S3 outcomes related to injurious behaviour (tail lesions: 5.9% [S2] and 10.5% [S3], ear lesions: 9.1% [S2] and 3.3% [S3], and flank lesions: 0.4% [S2] and 1.3% [S3]), lameness (0.8% [S2] and 1.1% [S3]), bursitis (3.9% [S2] and 7.5% [S3]) and hernias (1.6% [S2] and 1.8% [S3]) were more prevalent. Conclusions A large variation was observed for the recorded welfare outcomes corresponding to the different challenges pigs experience during the different stages of production on commercial pig farms. The prevalence of pigs affected by lesions caused by injurious behavior is a cause for concern and requires a collaborative approach to identify appropriate intervention strategies. This information could be used to further investigate appropriate benchmark values for different welfare outcomes that would assist the pig industry to develop appropriate health and welfare management plans to minimise welfare problems. At herd level such plans should include information on aspects of intervention, treatment, and the management of hospital pens as well as euthanasia.
    • Private animal health and welfare standards in quality assurance programmes: a review and proposed framework for critical evaluation

      More, S. J.; Hanlon, A.; Marchewka, J.; Boyle, L. (BMJ, 2017-05-02)
      In recent years, ‘private standards’ in animal health and welfare have become increasingly common, and are often incorporated into quality assurance (QA) programmes. Here, we present an overview of the use of private animal health and welfare standards in QA programmes, and propose a generic framework to facilitate critical programme review. Private standards are being developed in direct response to consumer demand for QA, and offer an opportunity for product differentiation and a means to drive consumer choice. Nonetheless, a range of concerns have been raised, relating to the credibility of these standards, their potential as a discriminatory barrier to trade, the multiplicity of private standards that have been developed, the lack of consumer input and compliance costs. There is a need for greater scrutiny of private standards and of associated QA programmes. We propose a framework to clarify the primary programme goal(s) and measureable outputs relevant to animal health and welfare, the primary programme beneficiaries and to determine whether the programme is effective, efficient and transparent. This paper provides a theoretical overview, noting that this framework could be used as a tool directly for programme evaluation, or as a tool to assist with programme development and review.
    • 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, Catherine; Boyle, Laura; Teixeira, Dayane L.; O'Connell, Niamh E.; Hawe, M.; Hanlon, A.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 11/S/107 (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.