• 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.
    • Associations between colostrum management, passive immunity, calf-related hygiene practices, and rates of mortality in preweaning dairy calves

      Barry, John; Bokkers, Eddie A.M.; Berry, Donagh; de Boer, Imke J.M.; McClure, J. Trenton; Kennedy, Emer; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme (Elsevier, 2019-09-11)
      Calves are particularly vulnerable to health issues before weaning and experience high rates of mortality. Poor colostrum quality or substandard colostrum management, combined with poor hygiene, can increase disease susceptibility, contributing to elevated mortality rates. This study aimed to assess colostrum and calf management together with subsequent mortality rates in preweaning calves. Forty-seven Irish spring-calving, pasture-based dairy herds were enrolled in the study. To investigate whether colostrum and hygiene practices change as the calving season progresses, each farm was visited in both the first and last 6 wk of the calving season. The concentration of IgG in 250 colostrum samples and 580 calf serum samples was determined by radial immunodiffusion assay. Mean colostrum IgG concentration was 85 mg/mL, and mean calf serum IgG concentration was 30.9 and 27.1 mg/mL, respectively, in the first and last 6 wk of the calving season. Smaller herd size and younger age at sampling were associated with higher calf serum IgG concentration. Dairy breed calves were associated with higher serum IgG concentrations compared with beef breed calves; no association was detected based on sex. For feeding equipment hygiene, we assessed the presence of protein residues and found that hygiene levels tended to worsen from the first to the final 6 wk of the calving season. We found no association between feeding equipment hygiene and herd size or 28-d calf mortality rate. Colostrum and calf management practices were not associated with either calf serum IgG concentration or 28-d calf mortality rate. We found that IgG concentration in colostrum produced in Irish dairy herds was generally good, although large variation existed, emphasizing the need for assessment of colostrum before feeding. Results also suggested that hygiene practices associated with calf rearing can be improved, particularly in the latter half of the calving season.
    • Cross-Fostering Implications for Pig Mortality, Welfare and Performance

      Calderon Diaz, Julia; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 14/S/832 (Frontiers, 2018-06-06)
      This study aimed to (1) identify cross-fostering (CF) practices employed on a commercial farm; (2) characterize CF pigs according to litter of origin traits, and (3) investigate the implications of CF practices on pig mortality, performance and welfare. This was an observational study whereby pigs were managed according to normal farming practice. Pigs (n = 1,016) born within 1 week were classified as non-CF (NCF); CF during the first (CFW1) and second or third (CFW2+) weeks of lactation. Pigs were individually weighed and inspected for the presence of tail (TL), ear (EL) and body lesions (BL) at weaning (7.03 ± 1.61 kg) and at the end of the first (12.9 ± 3.03 kg) and second (31.9 ± 5.50 kg) weaner and grower (66.3 ± 9.12 kg) stages. Mortality was recorded through to slaughter (c. 115 kg). At slaughter, TL were scored and carcass characteristics, presence of pleurisy, enzootic pneumonia, pericarditis and heart condemnations were recorded. 40.8% of CF pigs were CFW1; ANOVA tests revealed these were born to sows with a higher number of piglets born alive than NCF pigs (14.6 ± 2.61 and 12.8 ± 2.68, respectively). The remaining 59.2% of CF pigs were CFW2+; these were, on average, 0.14 kg lighter at birth than NCF pigs. Therefore, a nested case control design was retrospectively applied whereby pigs with complete records to slaughter, were matched for these variables to investigate associations between CF weeks, welfare and performance traits. Growth performance did not differ between CF week (P > 0.05); however, CFW2+ carcasses were 4.9 kg lighter (P < 0.05) compared with NCF and CFW1 pigs. EL were more likely in CFW1 compared to NCF and CFW2+ (P < 0.05) pigs. To investigate the effect of CF week on the risk of mortality, all 1,016 pigs were used. CF pigs were at higher risk of death (P < 0.05) with similar odds in CFW1 and CFW2+ pigs compared with NCF pigs, although other underlying factors could contribute to this result. Performance and health traits were similar between CF weeks. Early cross-fostering appeared to influence the presence of ear lesions but the mechanism is likely indirect and difficult to explain.
    • Cross-Fostering Implications for Pig Mortality, Welfare and Performance

      Calderon Diaz, Julia; Garcia Manzanilla, Edgar; Diana, Alessia; Boyle, Laura; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Teagasc Walsh Fellowship Programme; 14/S/832 (Frontiers, 2018-06-06)
      This study aimed to (1) identify cross-fostering (CF) practices employed on a commercial farm; (2) characterize CF pigs according to litter of origin traits, and (3) investigate the implications of CF practices on pig mortality, performance and welfare. This was an observational study whereby pigs were managed according to normal farming practice. Pigs (n = 1,016) born within 1 week were classified as non-CF (NCF); CF during the first (CFW1) and second or third (CFW2+) weeks of lactation. Pigs were individually weighed and inspected for the presence of tail (TL), ear (EL) and body lesions (BL) at weaning (7.03 ± 1.61 kg) and at the end of the first (12.9 ± 3.03 kg) and second (31.9 ± 5.50 kg) weaner and grower (66.3 ± 9.12 kg) stages. Mortality was recorded through to slaughter (c. 115 kg). At slaughter, TL were scored and carcass characteristics, presence of pleurisy, enzootic pneumonia, pericarditis and heart condemnations were recorded. 40.8% of CF pigs were CFW1; ANOVA tests revealed these were born to sows with a higher number of piglets born alive than NCF pigs (14.6 ± 2.61 and 12.8 ± 2.68, respectively). The remaining 59.2% of CF pigs were CFW2+; these were, on average, 0.14 kg lighter at birth than NCF pigs. Therefore, a nested case control design was retrospectively applied whereby pigs with complete records to slaughter, were matched for these variables to investigate associations between CF weeks, welfare and performance traits. Growth performance did not differ between CF week (P > 0.05); however, CFW2+ carcasses were 4.9 kg lighter (P < 0.05) compared with NCF and CFW1 pigs. EL were more likely in CFW1 compared to NCF and CFW2+ (P < 0.05) pigs. To investigate the effect of CF week on the risk of mortality, all 1,016 pigs were used. CF pigs were at higher risk of death (P < 0.05) with similar odds in CFW1 and CFW2+ pigs compared with NCF pigs, although other underlying factors could contribute to this result. Performance and health traits were similar between CF weeks. Early cross-fostering appeared to influence the presence of ear lesions but the mechanism is likely indirect and difficult to explain.
    • Do weaner pigs need in-feed antibiotics to ensure good health and welfare?

      Diana, Alessia; Manzanilla, Edgar G; Calderon Diaz, Julia; Leonard, Nola; Boyle, Laura (PLOS, 2017-10-05)
      Antibiotics (AB) are used in intensive pig production systems to control infectious diseases and they are suspected to be a major source of antibiotic resistance. Following the ban on AB use as growth promoters in the EU, their prophylactic use in-feed is now under review. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of removing prophylactic in-feed AB on pig health and welfare indicators. Every Monday for six weeks, a subset of 70 pigs were weaned, tagged and sorted into two groups of 35 pigs according to weight (9.2 ± 0.6 kg). AB were removed from the diet of one group (NO, n=6) and maintained in the other group (AB, n=6) for nine weeks. Ten focal pigs were chosen per group. After c. five weeks each group was split into two pens of c.17 pigs for the following 4 weeks. Data were recorded weekly. Skin, tail, ear, flank and limb lesions of focal pigs were scored according to severity. The number of animals per group affected by health deviations was also recorded. The number of fights and harmful behaviours (ear, tail bites) per group was counted during 3×5min observations once per week. Data were analysed using mixed model equations and binomial logistic regression. At group level, AB pigs were more likely to have tail (OR=1.70; P=0.05) but less likely to have ear lesions than NO pigs (OR=0.46; P<0.05). The number of ear bites (21.4±2.15 vs. 17.3±1.61; P<0.05) and fights (6.91±0.91 vs. 5.58±0.72; P=0.09) was higher in AB than in NO pigs. There was no effect of treatment on health deviations and the frequency of these was low. Removing AB from the feed of weaner pigs had minimal effects on health and welfare indicators.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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
    • Invited review: Cattle lameness detection with accelerometers

      O'Leary, N.W.; Byrne, D.T.; O'Connor, A.H.; Shalloo, Laurence; Science Foundation Ireland; 13/IA/1977 (American Dairy Science Association, 2020-05)
      Locomotion scoring is time consuming and is not commonly completed on farms. Farmers also underestimate their herds' lameness prevalence, a knowledge gap that impedes lameness management. Automation of lameness detection could address this knowledge gap and facilitate improved lameness management. The literature pertinent to adding lameness detection to accelerometers is reviewed in this paper. Options for lameness detection systems are examined including the choice of sensor, raw data collected, variables extracted, and statistical classification methods used. Two categories of variables derived from accelerometer-based systems are examined. These categories are behavior measures such as lying and measures of gait. For example, one measure of gait is the time a leg is swinging during a gait cycle. Some behavior-focused studies have reported accuracy levels of greater than 80%. Cow gait measures have been investigated to a lesser extent than behavior. However, classification accuracies as high as 91% using gait measures have been reported with hardware likely to be practical for commercial farms. The need for even higher accuracy and potential barriers to adoption are discussed. Significant progress is still required to realize a system with sufficient specificity and sensitivity. Lameness detection systems using 1 accelerometer per cow and a resolution lower than 100 Hz with gait measurement functions are suggested to balance cost and data requirements. However, gait measurement using accelerometers is rather underdeveloped. Therefore, a high priority should be given to the development of novel gait measures and testing their ability to differentiate lame from nonlame cows.
    • 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.