Egg producers gearing up for quality pullets in Chile

Egg producers from Chile were invited to technical seminars organized by Anco’s distributor Nutringen in Santiago and Chillan.

The theme of the seminars was: “Topics of health and nutrition in pullets.” Talks and discussions focused on how to manage for quality pullets to support high levels of egg production during the production phase.

Nutringen took this as an opportunity to launch its services and tools directed at helping egg producers to achieve their goals during the egg production phase. The seminars attracted egg producers and professionals associated with the egg producing sector.

Chile has more than 14,000,000 layers and egg consumption will be 225 units per capita per year, representing an increase of 8% compared to last year. This figure places Chile in the fifth place in egg consumption in Latin America. The other top egg consuming countries in Latin America are: Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia.

Marco Nunes, Technical Manager from Anco gave a presentation on: ”Importance of controlling weight and uniformity of pullets in the growing period to reach high levels of laying persistence during the egg production phase.” He demonstrated the relationship between achieving average weight and uniformity goals during the growth period of pullets and productive performance of laying hens during the egg production phase. He also pointed out why Anco FIT Poultry can be a strategic tool to help reach those objectives.

Learn how Anco FIT Poultry can support robustness in laying hens for greater laying persistency.

Animal Resilience – Harnessing the power of plant resilience

Plant resilience determines survival of plants, when faced with stressful conditions. One of the keys to strategies for animal resilience could be the answer to the question: What is helping plants to adapt to climate changes, attacks by microbial pathogens, insect pests and other stressors?

Resilience a key trait to survival

Resilience is a modern name for an inherent trait. It has always been crucial to survival to bounce back from challenges and stressors and carry on living. This is what defines resilience in plants, animals, humans and organisations. The quicker you can adapt to or the lower the impact challenges and stressors can have on your normal functioning the greater the chance of survival in the long term. The more resilient you are, the less support you require from outside, and the more consistent and efficient your performance. This means resilience is a key competitive advantage particularly in stressful situations and times of change.

Why resilience matters in animal production

There is a vast amount of activities and studies currently focusing to increase plant resilience. Things on the animal side are behind, but the pace is already picking up for very similar reasons. Climate change, demands for reduction in the use of chemicals and antibiotic growth promotors, increased concerns for animal welfare and a rapid decline in skilled labour in animal production are driving geneticists back to the drawing board. They all essentially agree: Continued selection for greater performance in the absence of consideration for the adaptive capacity of animals to cope with stressors will result in greater susceptibility to stress and disease. Possibilities for genetic selection and other alternatives to improve the adaptive capacity of animals are currently being explored in various research projects across the world to increase animal resilience.

Extracting plant resilience

As plants evolved, they developed very sophisticated coping mechanisms to stressors, helping plants to be more resilient in the face of stressors and threats to survival.

The exposure of plants to unfavorable environmental conditions increases the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). As a result, the ROS detoxification process in plants is essential for the protection of plant cells against the toxic effect of ROS. The ROS detoxification systems in plants include enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants. Non-enzymatic antioxidants involved include phenolic compounds, flavonoids, alkaloids, tocopherol and carotenoids. The antioxidant defense systems work in concert to control the cascades of uncontrolled oxidation and protect plant cells from oxidative damage by scavenging of ROS.

Apart from antioxidants, plants contain a multitude of bioactive substances, with a variety of proven properties such as anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and aromatic, which are part of their resilience mechanisms for survival and defense. The combination of the many substances makes plants polyvalent to different stressors and threats to survival.

Many plants produce essential oils, which contain those bioactive substances to protect them from stressors and disease in a more concentrated form. Essential oils are volatile oils, which can be extracted from plants by distillation. These oils have a long history as food preservatives and today many of them are classified as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Applying the secret of plants to support animal resilience

On a cellular level, animals experience similar type of stress reactions to plants. Stressors, such as heat, dietary changes, weaning, transition period and mycotoxins will cause an increase in the production of ROS, trigger inflammatory responses and increase permeability of cells in the gut. This again can make the animal more susceptible to disease.

Extracting essential oils from plants containing the very same bioactive components, that are helping plants to cope and resist stressors, and applying them to animal nutrition concepts, can help to support the resilience of animals. Gut agility activators are new nutritional concepts based on some of the mechanisms to plant resilience and are specifically designed to improve the animal’s adaptability to stressors. This then provides a way to support animal resilience by nutritional means.

Related articles

Resilience – economic value in animal production 

Strategies for greater robustness and laying persistency in layers 

Labour shortage drives the need for cow resilience 

How some cows can give heat stress the cold shoulder 

Labour shortage drives the need for cow resilience

Milking cows is not as appealing as it used to be. As a result, highly skilled labour is more difficult to come by for dairy farms. Still the number of cows on dairy farms is increasing. So, caring for cow health, wellbeing and optimal performance in a profitable way is becoming more challenging. However, something the dairy sector apparently is not short of, is the courage to adopt new technologies. And that has really been to the advantage of the dairy sector, when tackling labour issues.

But there is another way of approaching the issue of labour and that is to breed and manage for “easy-care” cows. Cows that are easy to care for and manage can cut right down on input costs, such as labour, medical and vet bills, whilst at the same time maintain high wellbeing and productivity in cows more consistently. This is where resilience in cows matters.

Geneticists are starting to take resilience seriously and so are nutritionists. After all cows are what they eat. Feeding for resilience can make a difference to the amount of care a cow requires, as well as to the consistency and longevity of her performance.

Digital cow care

Dairy farmers have one of the highest rates of tech adoption. Maybe this is partly because there are some amazing new technologies out there that help farmers monitor their cows. Clever and innovative ways of applying imaging with computer vision, artificial intelligence and sensors to collecting data from individual cows, can help to monitor large numbers of cows. The data can be used to detect health problems quickly, whether cows are on heat or started calving so action can be taken in a timely manner.

These new technologies are improving the way labour is utilized on a day to day basis and allows dairy farms to get the work done with fewer high-skilled labourers. They can save costs on labour, but also on feed, as tighter monitoring of cows can lead to less wastage. Other benefits mentioned from the application of these technologies is that cows are less stressed as a result of fewer interactions with humans and sensors are less biased in their observations than humans.

Easy-care cows

Replacing hard to come by labour with digital technologies and assistants is one way to stay on top of cow performance and health in a profitable way. However, if the data alerts to problems with cows, appropriate action still needs to be taken, which again means labour time. The other alternative is to keep cows that are easier to manage and have fewer problems.

But how can we select for cows that are easier to manage? This is a question that research groups in Wageningen and in Australia are currently investigating. The good news is, that they have concluded that it is possible. Key to this was finding a way to measure resilience in cows.

Resilience a key trait

Resilience was defined by the Wageningen research group as “The capacity of the animal to be minimally affected by disturbances/challenges or to rapidly return to the state it was in before exposure to a disturbance.” This again is determined by the adaptive capacity of the cow.

The adaptive capacity is the mechanism of the animal that empowers it to cope with internal or external disturbances, stressors or with changes in the environment. Studies showed that variance in daily milk production is heritable and can be used to breed for resilient cows. More resilient cows having a lower variance (lower fluctuations) in milk production over time. Therefore, resilience can be measured based on deviations of expected production and observed production over a time period.

Technological advances facilitate the increase in the number of observations that can be made on individual animals to more accurately estimate deviations and consequently genetic parameters. Routine data collection form automatic milking systems (AMS) and automatic feeding systems (AFS) are the most well-known and well-developed examples.

Animal breeders expect more rapid progress with measurements from wearable sensors, which as mentioned above are already being used for monitoring animal behaviour, physiological changes and detecting health and disease status in animals. Sensors have been helpful to measure average eating time and ear temperature in the transition period before calving. The data derived from this suggests that it could be used as indicators for resilience in cows during the transition period and to predict problems during early lactation.

Feeding for cow resilience

Finding additional ways of improving the adaptive capacity of cows, e.g. by nutritional means, could speed up the process of reaching the goal for resilience in cows. New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and hence resilience of the cow by nutritional means.

They help the cow to adapt to nutritional challenges by minimising stress reactions such as oxidative stress and reduced feed intake, that would otherwise impact performance, health and wellbeing of the cow. Heat stress, transition period, energy deficiency and mycotoxins are known factors which normally lead to increased oxidative stress and or a reduction in feed intake.

Feeding a gut agility activator to cows facing those type of challenges, has been shown to maintain high milk component yields and low somatic cell counts, indicating that the cows were able to cope better with the stressors, i.e. were more resilient.

Keep yourself and cows agile

Darwin’s principle – „It is not the strongest that survive but the ones most adaptable to change”, has more relevance in the ever faster changing world of today than it had before. The safest bet to keep yourself and your cows in the game in the face of unpredictability is to support and manage the adaptive capacity of your cows and of yourself. In other words, agility or the ability to adapt to challenges and change is key to longer term success.

Staying open to continuous learning and new technologies will help to keep yourself agile. Rethinking how we breed and feed cows to foster resilience will keep cows agile. And there are already great technologies out there that can help monitor the progress we make in this.

by Gwendolyn Jones, Published in International Dairy Topics, May 2019, Positive Action


Jones, (2019) Harnessing the power of plant resilience for animal resilience

Van Dixhoorn et al (2018). Indicators of resilience during the transition period in dairy cows: A case study.