• Comparative grazing behaviour of lactating suckler cows of contrasting genetic merit and genotype

      McCabe, S.; McHugh, Noirin; O'Connell, Niamh E.; Prendiville, Robert; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; RSF 13/S4/96 (Elsevier, 2018-12-04)
      The objective of this study was to determine if differences in grazing behaviour exist between lactating suckler cows diverse in genetic merit for the national Irish Replacement index and of two contrasting genotypes. Data from 103 cows: 41 high and 62 low genetic merit, 43 beef and 60 beef x dairy (BDX) cows were available over a single grazing season in 2015. Milk yield, grass dry matter intake (GDMI), cow live weight (BW) and body condition score (BCS) were recorded during the experimental period, with subsequent measures of production efficiency extrapolated. Grazing behaviour data were recorded twice in conjunction with aforementioned measures, using Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research headset behaviour recorders. The effect of genotype and cow genetic merit during mid- and late-lactation on grazing behaviour phenotypes, milk yield, BW, BCS and GDMI were estimated using linear mixed models. Genetic merit had no significant effect on any production parameters investigated, with the exception that low genetic merit had a greater BCS than high genetic merit cows. Beef cows were heavier, had a greater BCS but produced less milk per day than BDX. The BDX cows produced more milk per 100 kg BW and per unit intake and had greater GDMI, intake per bite and rate of GDMI per 100 kg BW than beef cows. High genetic merit cows spent longer grazing and took more bites per day but had a lower rate of GDMI than low genetic merit cows, with the same trend found when expressed per unit of BW. High genetic merit cows spent longer grazing than low genetic merit cows when expressed on a per unit intake basis. Absolute rumination measures were similar across cow genotype and genetic merit. When expressed per unit BW, BDX cows spent longer ruminating per day compared to beef. However, on a per unit intake basis, beef cows ruminated longer and had more mastications than BDX. Intake per bite and rate of intake was positively correlated with GDMI per 100 kg BW. The current study implies that despite large differences in grazing behaviour between cows diverse in genetic merit, few differences were apparent in terms of production efficiency variables extrapolated. Conversely, differences in absolute grazing and ruminating behaviour measurements did not exist between beef cows of contrasting genotype. However, efficiency parameters investigated illustrate that BDX will subsequently convert herbage intake more efficiently to milk production.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Intestinal microbiota profiles associated with low and high residual feed intake in chickens across two geographical locations

      Siegerstetter, Sina-Catherine; Schmitz-Esser, Stephan; Magowan, Elizabeth; Wetzels, Stefanie Urimare; Zebeli, Qendrim; Lawlor, Peadar G; O'Connell, Niamh E.; Metzler-Zebeli, Barbara U.; European Union; 311794 (PLOS, 2017-11-15)
      Intestinal microbe-host interactions can affect the feed efficiency (FE) of chickens. As inconsistent findings for FE-associated bacterial taxa were reported across studies, the present objective was to identify whether bacterial profiles and predicted metabolic functions that were associated with residual feed intake (RFI) and performance traits in female and male chickens were consistent across two different geographical locations. At six weeks of life, the microbiota in ileal, cecal and fecal samples of low (n = 34) and high (n = 35) RFI chickens were investigated by sequencing the V3-5 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Location-associated differences in α-diversity and relative abundances of several phyla and genera were detected. RFI-associated bacterial abundances were found at the phylum and genus level, but differed among the three intestinal sites and between males and females. Correlation analysis confirmed that, of the taxonomically classifiable bacteria, Lactobacillus (5% relative abundance) and two Lactobacillus crispatus-OTUs in feces were indicative for high RFI in females (P < 0.05). In males, Ruminococcus in cecal digesta (3.1% relative abundance) and Dorea in feces (<0.1% relative abundance) were best indicative for low RFI, whereas Acinetobacter in feces (<1.5% relative abundance) related to high RFI (P < 0.05). Predicted metabolic functions in feces of males confirmed compositional relationships as functions related to amino acid, fatty acid and vitamin metabolism correlated with low RFI, whereas an increasing abundance of bacterial signaling and interaction (i.e. cellular antigens) genes correlated with high RFI (P < 0.05). In conclusion, RFI-associated bacterial profiles could be identified across different geographical locations. Results indicated that consortia of low- abundance taxa in the ileum, ceca and feces may play a role for FE in chickens, whereby only bacterial FE-associations found in ileal and cecal digesta may serve as useful targets for dietary strategies.
    • 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.
    • 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.