• Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects

      Boyle, Laura A; Conneely, M.; Kennedy, Emer; O’Connell, N.; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Earley, Bernadette (Teagasc, 2022-02-26)
      RECORDABSTRACTARTICLE Animal welfare research – progress to date and future prospects OTHER Author(s): L. Boyle 1 , M. Conneely 1 , E. Kennedy 1 , N. O’Connell 2 , K. O’Driscoll 1 , B. Earley 3 , Publication date (Electronic): 26 February 2022 Journal: Irish Journal of Agricultural and Food Research Publisher: Compuscript Keywords: Animal welfare, beef, dairy, pig, poultry, welfare assessment Abstract The welfare status of an animal is dependent on its ability to cope and exist in harmony with its environment, such that good physical and psychological health is maintained. Improving animal welfare is an increasingly important aspect of livestock production systems due, in a large extent, to increased consumer concerns about animal production practices. Animal welfare is an integrated part of quality assurance programmes for sustainable animal production, considering that welfare, health, management, economy, consumer acceptance and environmental impact are interdependent. The major welfare concerns in the livestock industry in recent years relate to the rearing and management of dairy calves, the welfare of the dairy cow, effect of husbandry management procedures on the welfare of beef cattle, rearing of sows in gestation and farrowing crates, and the broiler (meat) chicken sector. The paper will focus on scientific research underpinning these welfare concerns, with a particular focus on research conducted on the island of Ireland.
    • Artificial rearing affects piglets pre-weaning behaviour, welfare and growth performance

      Schmitt, Océane; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Boyle, Laura; Baxter, Emma M.; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13S428 (Elsevier, 2018-11-02)
      One strategy adopted on farms to deal with managing large litters involves removing piglets from their mothers at seven days old to be reared in specialised accommodation with milk replacer. Effects on piglet behaviour, growth and some aspects of welfare were evaluated in this study by comparing 10 pairs of two litters (one sow-reared: SR, one artificially-reared: AR) selected at seven days-old at a similar weight. Piglet behaviour was recorded for 20 min following transfer of AR piglets to the artificial-rearing enclosure (D0) and for 20 min hourly between 09:00 h and 17:00 h (8 h) on D5 and D12. Hourly 5 min live observations were also undertaken. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) was conducted on D14 to evaluate piglets’ emotional state. Survival and illness events were recorded until weaning. On D0, D1, D8 and D15 piglets were weighed and scored for tear staining, dirtiness of the face and severity of lesions on the snout, limbs, ear and tail. Survival and illness rates, as well as the rates of behaviours/min were analysed using GLMMs. Weights and QBA scores were analysed using GLM. Lesions, tear staining and dirtiness scores were averaged per litter and analysed using GLM. When AR piglets were transferred to the artificial-rearing enclosure, their behaviour was not different to SR piglets. Over the two observation days, AR piglets performed more belly-nosing (F1,76.53 = 42.25; P < 0.001), nursing-related displacements (F1,79 = 19.32, P < 0.001), visits to the milk cup (compared to nursing bouts; F1,73.8 = 38.42, P < 0.001), and oral manipulation of littermates’ ears (F1,91.95 = 12.79, P < 0.001) and tails (F1,58.54 = 15.63, P < 0.001) than SR piglets. However, SR piglets played alone (F1,88.99 = 8.29, P < 0.005) and explored their environment (F1,99.42 = 4.52, P < 0.05) more frequently than AR piglets. The QBA scores indicated a lower emotional state in AR piglets (t25.1=-3.25, P < 0.05). Survival rate and overall illness rate of piglets were similar between the treatments. AR piglets experienced a growth check following their transfer to the artificial-rearing enclosure and remained lighter than SR piglets through to weaning (6.53 ± 0.139 kg vs. 7.97 ± 0.168 kg, t256 = 9.79, P < 0.001). Overall, snout lesion scores were not different between the treatments, but AR piglets had lower limb (F1,10.1 = 5.89, P < 0.05) and ear (F1,14.5 = 24.89, P < 0.001) lesion scores and higher tail lesion scores (F1,34.5 = 15.54, P < 0.001). AR piglets were dirtier (F1,17.4 = 23.38, P < 0.001) but had lower tear staining scores (F1,19.1 = 68.40, P < 0.001) than SR piglets. In conclusion, artificial rearing impaired piglets’ behaviour, welfare and growth.
    • Behavioural responses of pasture based dairy cows to short term management in tie-stalls

      Enriquez-Hidalgo, Daniel; Lemos Teixeira, Dayane; Lewis, Eva; Buckley, Frank; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Boyle, Laura; UNIVERSA Fellowship (Elsevier, 2017-09-22)
      Dairy cows in experimental grazing herds are often confined for metabolic measurements. The objective of this study was to establish effects of transfer from pasture, to tie-stalls in a metabolism house, then back to pasture, on lying behaviour and locomotion score of lactating cows: Holstein-Friesian (H, n = 16), Jersey (J, n = 16) and H × J (HJ, n = 16). Cows were transferred to tie-stalls on d 1 for 12 days, and were offered freshly cut ryegrass according to herbage allowance (HERB) and genotype: J low = 14; J high = 17; H and HJ low = 16; and H and HJ high = 20 kg DM/d. Lying behaviour was recorded on four days: −2, −1 (Pre-confinement), 3 (Early confinement), 10, 11 (Late confinement), 13 and 14 (Post-confinement) relative to transfer (d 1) using dataloggers, and was also video-recorded during the first 15 h. Locomotion score was recorded on days −4, −3, 12 and 16. No effects of HERB on lying variables were observed during the first 15 h in confinement, but J cows made more lying intentions (21.0 vs. 12.2; P < 0.05) and tended (P = 0.07) to have a shorter latency to lie. Cows spent less (P < 0.001) time lying in early confinement (07:22:29 h/d) than on any of the other occasions (9:12:50 h/d). Cows had more (P < 0.001) and shorter (P < 0.001) lying bouts in confinement than while at pasture. Low HERB cows spent more time lying than high HERB cows (09:54:55 vs. 09:09:33 h/d; P < 0.01). J had higher locomotion scores than H (9.2 ± 0.2 vs.7.8 ± 0.2; P < 0.001), and tended (P = 0.09) to have higher scores than HJ (8.5 ± 0.2) cows. Locomotion scores were lowest pre confinement, highest at turnout (d 12), and intermediate after that at pasture (d 16) (7.6 ± 0.2, 9.3 ± 0.2 and 8.6 ± 0.3, respectively; P < 0.01). On transfer to the metabolism house cows showed disrupted patterns of lying although daily lying time returned to levels similar to pasture by late confinement. Confinement also resulted in a short-term deterioration in locomotory ability, which although improving, was still evident 4 days following the cows return to pasture with Jersey cows being more affected than the other genotypes. These findings suggest that longer adaptation periods and temporary release to loafing areas may improve both the validity of data collected and cow welfare.
    • 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.
    • Differences in leukocyte profile, gene expression, and metabolite status of dairy cows with or without sole ulcers

      O'Driscoll, Keelin; McCabe, Matthew; Earley, Bernadette; Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship; 252611 (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 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.
    • The Effect of Group Composition and Mineral Supplementation during Rearing on Measures of Cartilage Condition and Bone Mineral Density in Replacement Gilts

      Hartnett, Phoebe; Boyle, Laura; Younge, Bridget; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship programme (MDPI, 2019-08-30)
      Lameness is a major cause of poor longevity and poor welfare in replacement gilts. The problem is exacerbated by inappropriate housing and diet during the rearing period. Replacement gilts are often reared with male finisher pigs destined for slaughter. If they are not castrated, they perform high levels of potentially injurious sexual and aggressive behaviour. Furthermore, finisher pig diets are not designed to meet the needs of developing gilts and may not supply the necessary minerals to support good limb health. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of supplementing the diet of replacement gilts with copper, zinc and manganese and separating them from males during the rearing period on locomotory ability, bone mineral density and cartilage lesion scores. A 2 × 2 factorial design experiment investigated the effect of female-only or mixed-sex rearing, with or without supplementary minerals (Copper, Zinc and Manganese). In total, 384 maternal line gilts were assigned to 32 pens of 12 and were locomotion scored during the rearing period. A sub-sample (n = 102) of gilts were culled at breeding age and the front right limb was removed at slaughter. Areal bone mineral density (aBMD) was measured using dual energy X-ray absorptiometry, after which the limb was dissected to score the condition of the cartilage. The addition of trace minerals to the diet resulted in increased aBMD in the humerus (P < 0.05) compared to the control diet. Rearing gilts in female-only groups reduced the number of cartilage lesions overall (P < 0.05), and on the humeral condyle (P < 0.05). Rearing replacement gilts in female-only groups and with mineral supplementation had benefits for limb health.
    • Effect of increasing dietary energy density during late gestation and lactation on sow performance, piglet vitality, and lifetime growth of offspring

      Rooney, Hazel B; O'Driscoll, Keelin; O’doherty, John V; Lawlor, Peadar G; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 13S428 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019-12-25)
      Genetic selection for hyperprolificacy in sows has resulted in a significant increase in the number of piglets born alive per litter but subsequently, decreased piglet vitality and growth. As a consequence, increasing sows’ energy intake during lactation to help increase piglet vitality and growth is increasingly important. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of increasing dietary energy density for lactating sows on weight and back-fat changes in sows, milk composition, and vitality and growth of progeny. Gestating sows (N = 100; Large White × Landrace) were randomly assigned to one of four energy dense diets at day 108 of gestation until subsequent service; 13.8 (LL), 14.5 (L), 15.2 (H), and 15.9 MJ DE/kg (HH). All diets contained 1.2% total lysine. Blood samples from sows were taken on day 108 of gestation and at weaning (day 26 of lactation) and colostrum (day 0) and milk samples (day 14) were collected during lactation. Sow lactation feed intakes were recorded daily. The number of piglets born per litter (total and live), piglet birth weight (total and live), intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) traits and muscle tone were recorded in piglets at birth. Piglet tympanic ear temperature (TEMP) was recorded at birth and at 24 h. Pigs were weighed on days 1, 6, 14, 26, 33, 40, 54, 75, and 141 of life. Postweaning (PW) pigs were fed standard cereal-based diets. Pig carcass data were collected at slaughter (day 141). Lactation energy intake was higher for HH sows than for all other treatments (P < 0.01). Colostrum and milk composition and lactation feed intake were not affected by treatment. The number of piglets born per litter (total and live) and piglet birthweight (total and live) was similar between treatments. Piglets from LL sows had more IUGR traits (P < 0.01), while those from HH sows had better muscle tone (P < 0.01) than all other treatments. Piglets from LL sows (P < 0.01) and piglets from H sows (P < 0.01) had a higher 24 h TEMP than piglets from HH sows. H sows weaned a greater number of piglets than L sows (P < 0.05) and HH sows (P < 0.01), while L sows weaned lighter litters than H (P < 0.05) and LL sows (P < 0.05). Pig growth PW was unaffected by treatment. High energy dense diets increased energy intake in sows, without depressing appetite. Feeding an HH diet improved piglet muscle tone at birth, whereas feeding an H diet increased litter size at weaning. Inconsistent results were observed for other traits of piglet vitality and for preweaning litter growth performance.
    • Irish pig farmer's perceptions and experiences of tail and ear biting.

      Haigh, Amy; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Biomed Central, 2019-01-01)
      Abnormal behaviours such as ear and tail biting of pigs is of significant welfare and economic concern. Currently, pig welfare legislation is under renewed focus by the EU commission and is likely to be enforced more thoroughly. The legislation prohibits routine tail docking and requires adequate enrichment to be provided. In Ireland, tail-docking is still the most utilised control mechanism to combat tail biting, but biting is still widespread even in tail-docked pigs. In addition, as pig farms are almost all fully slatted, bedding type material cannot be provided. Thus, the opinions, and practices of farmers in countries like Ireland, which may need to make significant adaptations to typical pig management systems soon, need to be considered and addressed. We carried out a survey of pig farmers during 2015 in order to gain a greater understanding of the extent of biting on Irish farms, perception on the most important preventive measures, current enrichment use and actions following outbreaks. Fifty-eight farmers from 21 Counties responded with an average herd size of 710 ± 597 sows (range 90–3000 sows). Only two farms had experienced no biting in the last year. Of the farms that had experienced tail biting (88%), 86% had also experienced ear biting. The most common concerns relating to biting were condemnation and reduced productivity of bitten pigs with both receiving an average score of 4 (most serious). Ear biting occurred most commonly in the 2nd stage (approximately 47–81 days from weaning) weaner and tail biting in the finishing stage. The most important preventive measures were felt to be taking care of animal health, restricting density, maintaining an even quality of feed/content and maintaining good air movement. Sixty-five percent of respondents added additional enrichment following an outbreak. Chains were the most common form of enrichment currently used (83%). Those not using chains favoured wood, toys and rope (17%). Identification of the most effective and accessible control and prevention measures both for the animals and for the farming community is thus essential. Improved understanding of the concerns and practices of producers, which this survey contributes to, is a first step towards this aim.
    • Leukocyte profile, gene expression, acute phase response, and metabolite status of cows with sole hemorrhages

      O'Driscoll, Keelin; McCabe, Matthew; Earley, Bernadette; Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship; 252611 (Elsevier, 2017-08-23)
      Sole hemorrhages result from disruption to normal claw horn formation and are caused by a variety of internal and external factors. Evidence suggests that they are painful, although they do not usually cause clinical lameness and are difficult to detect by observing cow gait. Little is known about how or whether sole hemorrhages affect the cow systemically. This study compared hematology profile, leukocyte gene expression, and physiological responses of cows with no/mild hemorrhages (category 1; n = 17), moderate hemorrhages (category 2; n = 18), and severe hemorrhages (category 3; n = 12). At approximately 100 d in milk, all cows in the study herd (n = 374) were locomotion scored before hoof examination. The cows included in the study were not clinically lame and had no other hoof disorder. Blood samples were taken from all cows within 24 h of selection. Leukocyte counts were obtained using an automated cell counter, cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) concentration by ELISA, and plasma haptoglobin, urea, total protein, creatine kinase and glucose were analyzed on a clinical chemistry analyzer. Expression of 16 genes associated with lameness or stress were estimated using real-time quantitative PCR. Data from cows within each category were compared using the Mixed procedure in SAS (version 9.3; SAS Institute Inc., Cary, NC). Fixed effects included hemorrhage severity category and lactation number, with days in milk and body condition score included as covariates. Locomotion score worsened as sole hemorrhage category worsened. Locomotion score of category 1 cows tended to be lower than that of category 2 cows and was lower than that of category 3 cows. The locomotion score of category 3 cows was also greater than that of categories 1 and 2 combined. Category had no effect on leukocyte number, on any of the individual leukocyte cell numbers or percentages, cortisol or DHEA concentration, cortisol:DHEA ratio, or relative expression of any of the genes investigated, and we detected no differences in plasma glucose, protein, or creatine kinase concentrations between categories. However, category 3 cows had greater plasma concentrations of haptoglobin and tended to have lesser concentrations of plasma urea than category 1 and 2 cows. The differences in gait between cows with no or minor sole hemorrhages and cows with severe hemorrhages indicate that hemorrhages may be associated with discomfort or pain. Nevertheless, the only physiological measure that changed with increasing locomotion score was plasma haptoglobin concentration. Haptoglobin has previously been found to be elevated in lame cows, and thus shows promise as a marker for limb pain.
    • Multi-Step Tail Biting Outbreak Intervention Protocols for Pigs Housed on Slatted Floors.

      Chou, Jen-Yun; O'Driscoll, Keelin; D'Eath, Rick B; Sandercock, Dale A; Camerlink, Irene; European Cooperation in Science and Technology; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Rural & Environmental Science & Analytical Services, Scotland (MDPI, 2019-08-20)
      Solutions are needed to keep pigs under commercial conditions without tail biting outbreaks (TBOs). However, as TBOs are inevitable, even in well managed farms, it is crucial to know how to manage TBOs when they occur. We evaluated the effectiveness of multi-step intervention protocols to control TBOs. Across 96 pens (1248 undocked pigs) managed on fully-slatted floors, 40 TBOs were recorded ( 3 out of 12–14 pigs with fresh tail wounds). When an outbreak was identified, either the biters or the victims were removed, or enrichment (three ropes) was added. If the intervention failed, another intervention was randomly used until all three interventions had been deployed once. Fifty percent of TBOs were controlled after one intervention, 30% after 2–3 interventions, and 20% remained uncontrolled. A high proportion of biters/victims per pen reduced intervention success more so than the type of intervention. When only one intervention was used, adding ropes was the fastest method to overcome TBOs. Removed biters and victims were successfully reintroduced within 14 days back to their home pens. In conclusion, 80% of TBOs were successfully controlled within 18.4 1.7 days on average using one or multiple cost-effective intervention strategies.
    • An overview of Irish pig production, research and knowledge transfer since 1960

      Boyle, Laura A.; Carroll, C.; Clarke, L.; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Gardiner, G.E.; McCutcheon, G.; McCrum, E.; McKeon, M.; Lawlor, Peadar; Lynch, B.; et al. (Teagasc, 2022-02-09)
      Pig production in Ireland has gone through enormous changes during the past 60 yr, from pigs being primarily produced as a sideline on dairy farms, to an industry with one of the highest average herd sizes in Europe. This happened in part due to external pressure on the industry, whereby economies of scale were needed to compete with pigs produced in other countries, but largely due to the instigation of national programmes to support the pig industry through research, education and knowledge transfer. These efforts helped producers to take advantage of genetic improvements and monitor their own performance over time, as well as allowing for benchmarking of the national herd against other countries. The research programme initiated in the 1960s continues to grow and expand, providing the pig industry with internationally renowned data and knowledge in the areas of nutrition, animal welfare, the environment and energy use. Recent initiatives such as the establishment of the Teagasc and Irish Farmers Association Pig Joint Programme, and a Pig Health Check section in Animal Health Ireland, will help to promote further cross-collaboration between stakeholders in the pig industry, and enable it to rise to the challenges of the years ahead.
    • Rearing Undocked Pigs on Fully Slatted Floors Using Multiple Types and Variations of Enrichment

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

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

      Chou, Jen-Yun; D'Eath, Rick B.; Sandercock, Dale A.; Waran, Natalie; Haigh, Amy; O'Driscoll, Keelin; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Ireland; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; Scotland's Rural College (Elsevier, 2018-04-07)
      Provision of adequate environmental enrichment on pig farms is a legal requirement under current EU legislation and also alleviates the risk of tail biting. Wood is an organic alternative where loose bedding, which has been identified as the optimal enrichment, is not possible on fully-slatted floors since it may disrupt the slurry system. The study compared four different wood types (beech (Fagus sylvatica), larch (Larix decidua), spruce (Picea sitchensis), and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.)) as enrichment, taking into account the qualities of the wood, economic considerations, and effectiveness at reducing damaging behaviours and lesions. A total of 800 tail docked finisher pigs on an Irish commercial farm were used. Eight pens were provided with each wood type (25 pigs/pen), and the study was conducted over 2 replicates in time. In each pen a single wooden post was presented to the pigs in a metal dispenser with two lateral chains during the finisher period (12–22 weeks of age). The rate of wear, moisture content, and hardness of the wood along with lesion scorings and behavioural observation on pigs were monitored. Spruce was consumed more quickly than other wood types in terms of weight loss and reduction in length (P < 0.001), resulting in a greater cost per pig. Pigs were observed interacting with the spruce more frequently than the other wood types (P < 0.05). Pigs also interacted with the wood more often than the chains in spruce allocated pens (P < 0.001). Overall the interaction with wood posts did not decline significantly across time. However, there was no difference in the frequency of harmful behaviours (tail/ear/flank-biting) observed between wood types, and also no difference in the effectiveness of the different types of wood in reducing tail or ear damage. There was a positive correlation between ear lesion and tear-staining scores (rp= 0.286, P < 0.01), and between tail lesion and tail posture scores (rp= 0.206, P < 0.05). Wood types did not affect visceral condemnation obtained in the slaughterhouse. Wood is a potentially suitable enrichment material, yet the wood species could influence its attractiveness to pigs.