Egg production – Resilience for laying persistence

In egg production longer laying cycles can help to cut costs, so they are a promising solution in a tough economic climate. Plus, they can reduce the environmental impact of egg production. Therefore, there is an increasing focus on improving laying persistence and egg quality at the end of the laying cycle. However, due to increasingly intensive metabolism for egg formation, laying hens are more susceptible to diseases, which requires a shift in breeding and nutrition towards greater resilience of birds to improve laying persistence for longer laying cycles.

There is a fast decline in egg production after the hens reach 480 d of age leading to reduced commercial value of laying hens. Understanding the mechanisms of the deterioration of the laying performance can help to slow down the process. The ovary and the liver are key organs involved in egg production of the laying hen, which is why knowing how to support them effectively by nutritional means can make a difference to laying persistence.

Oxidative stress in aging organs

Ovarian aging is one of the highest risk factors that lead to the decline of ovarian functions and hence a reduction in egg production. Studies have shown that oxidative stress plays a driving role in ovarian aging. The antioxidant status of the ovary decreases with age (Figure 2) as a result of a reduction in antioxidant enzymes and antioxidants in the hen’s own defense mechanisms. Oxidative stress is initiated by the gradual accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the ovary and a reduction of the antioxidative capacity during the aging process. This will be exacerbated through stressors, such as heat, mycotoxins, endotoxins and others, which increase the production of ROS in the hen on a cellular level. A growing body of evidence suggests that oxidative stress is involved in most of commercially relevant stresses in poultry production. Oxidative stress is defined as an imbalance between production of ROS and their elimination by protective mechanisms. This imbalance leads to damage of important biomolecules and cells, with potential impact on the whole organism. It can also lead to inflammatory responses which can affect energy efficiency of the laying hen.

Age-related changes in the antioxidative capacity of the hen’s liver, is an important factor that influences liver function. Studies have demonstrated that the total antioxidant capacity of the liver declines as the hen ages (Figure 2) and this has also been linked to a decrease in egg production and in the ability of yolk precursor formation.

Feeding for resilience in egg production

To extend the laying cycle of commercial flocks, long-term maintenance of organs involved in producing eggs is required. Feeding for antioxidative capacity in laying hens has been shown to retard the antioxidant decline of aging ovaries and can thus help to maintain functioning ovaries for longer. It is also known to maintain a healthy liver for longer. However, feeding to improve the adaptive capacity of birds to stressors helps to minimize stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, as well as inflammatory responses and reduced feed intake, which can further increase resilience in birds and reduce the potential for stressors to diminish the chances for producers to successfully extend the laying period. Animal resilience has been defined as “the capacity of the animal to be minimally affected by challenges or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a challenge.

The gut agility concept in Anco FIT Poultry was specifically developed to increase the capacity of the bird to adapt to challenges more efficiently and to reduces stress reactions that would otherwise reduce the hens performance and potential to sustain longer laying cycles. A trial carried out in a commercial laying hen flock in Brazil, demonstrates how Anco FIT Poultry improves the resilience of birds to stressors compared to birds on a control diet (Figure 3). The impact of stressors was smaller on egg production and birds recovered quicker from stressors leading to greater laying persistency and more eggs produced per hen over the trial period.

 

Published in International Poultry Production by Gwendolyn Jones

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Animal Nutrition journal – New scientific paper on Anco FIT Poultry

The Animal Nutrition journal published a scientific paper with research involving the application of Anco FIT Poultry in broilers and its effects on the expression of cytoprotective genes at the gut level.

Link to full scientific paper published online in Animal Nutrition

Abstract

Priming of intestinal cytoprotective genes and antioxidant capacity by dietary phytogenic inclusion in broilers

Konstantinos C. Mountzouris, Vasileios V. Paraskeuas, Konstantinos Fegeros

The potential of a phytogenic premix (PP) based on ginger, lemon balm, oregano and thyme to stimulate the expression of cytoprotective genes at the broiler gut level was evaluated in this study. In particular, the effects of PP inclusion levels on a selection of genes related to host protection against oxidation (catalase [CAT], superoxide dismutase 1 [SOD1], glutathione peroxidase 2 [GPX2], heme oxygenase 1 [HMOX1], NAD(P)H quinone dehydrogenase 1 [NQO1], nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 [Nrf2] and kelch like ECH associated protein 1 [Keap1]), stress (heat shock 70 kDa protein 2 [HSP70] and heat shock protein 90 alpha family class A member 1 [HSP90]) and inflammation (nuclear factor kappa B subunit 1 [NF-kB1], Toll-like receptor 2 family member B (TLR2B) and Toll-like receptor 4 [TLR4]) were profiled along the broiler intestine. In addition, broiler intestinal segments were assayed for their total antioxidant capacity (TAC). Depending on PP inclusion level (i.e. 0, 750, 1,000 and 2,000 mg/kg diet) in the basal diets, 1-d-old Cobb broiler chickens (n = 500) were assigned into the following 4 treatments: CON, PP-750, PP-1000 and PP-2000. Each treatment had 5 replicates of 25 chickens with ad libitum access to feed and water. Data were analyzed by ANOVA and means compared using Tukey’s honest significant difference (HSD) test.

Results

Polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels. Inclusion of PP increased (P≤ 0.05) the expression of cytoprotective genes against oxidation, except CAT. In particular, the cytoprotective against oxidation genes were up-regulated primarily in the duodenum and the ceca and secondarily in the jejunum. Most of the genes were upregulated in a quadratic manner with increasing PP inclusion level with the highest expression levels noted in treatments PP-750 and PP-1000 compared to CON. Similarly, intestinal TAC was higher in PP- 1000 in the duodenum (P= 0.011) and the ceca (P=0.050) compared to CON. Finally, increasing PP inclusion level resulted in linearly reduced (P≤ 0.05) expression of NF-kB1, TLR4 and HSP70, the former in the duodenum and the latter 2 in the ceca.

Conclusion

Overall, PP inclusion consistently up-regulated cytoprotective genes and down-regulated stress and inflammation related ones. The effect is dependent on PP inclusion level and the intestinal site. The potential of PP to beneficially prime bird cytoprotective responses merit further investigation under stress-challenge conditions.

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Summer heat stress in cows – better milk quality with Anco FIT

Summer heat stress in cows is known to reduce milk yields and milk quality, reducing the profitability of dairy farms, which is why it is important to find ways to effectively manage it on farms.

Higher producing cows are more sensitive to heat stress

Lactating dairy cows prefer ambient temperatures of between 5 and 25 °C, the “thermoneutral” zone. At ambient temperatures above 26°C, the cow reaches a point where she can no longer cool herself adequately and enters heat stress. Whereas the upper critical limit of the thermoneutral zone for dairy cattle is between 25 °C and 26 °C, the, the temperature-humidity index (THI) is below 72.

Higher producing cows, and thus multiparous cows, are more sensitive to the effects of heat stress compared to lower producing or primiparous cows. As milk yield increases from 35 to 45 kg/d, the heat stress threshold is decreased by 5°C. Recent studies show that modern cows become heat-stressed starting at an average THI of 68 with the levels of stress increasing with increasing THI values.

Higher-producing cows exhibit more signs of heat stress than lower-producing cows because higher-producing cows generate more heat as they eat more feed for higher production. They must get rid of the extra heat generated due to metabolizing more nutrients in the feed. As a result, much of the reduction seen in milk production is due to lower feed intake by the cow. Feed intake in lactating dairy cows starts to decline at around 25°C and drops more rapidly above 30°C.  High producing dairy cows also have a higher metabolic heat load produced through processes such as lactogenesis and milk secretion. Consequently, as milk production and metabolic heat production rise genetically, heat stress will increasingly limit the expression of genetic potential in the future.

The stage in the lactation curve at which the cow experiences heat stress is another important factor for the total lactation yield. Cows are less able to cope with heat stress during early lactation and heat stress has the biggest impact during the first 60 days of lactation. This is because cows are in negative energy balance and make up for the deficit by mobilizing body reserves in this early part of lactation. Catabolic processes are associated with heat production.

Summer heat stress in cows affects milk quality

Milk quality is important for producers to earn monetary bonuses through lower somatic cell counts and increased butterfat/protein, increasing farm profitability.

Controlling somatic cell count (SCC) is a year-round challenge for most dairy producers, and hot humid weather intensifies this challenge. Heat stress generally increases the production of free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). This can lead to oxidative stress, which again has been associated with increased SCC in milk.

Results from studies on the impact of heat stress on milk components are inconsistent, however several studies have reported reduced milk fat and protein levels in response to heat stress. Some researches argue that fat yield decreases could be explained by a decrease in forage intake with low fiber levels, and protein decreases could be attributed to reduced DMI and energy intake when the animal is under heat stress. Other research has shown that milk fat depression during heat stress can be linked to depressed rumen health. Therefore, supporting optimal rumen function by nutritional means may help to reduce the negative impact of heat stress on milk fat.

Strategies to mitigate the negative effects of summer heat stress in cows

Cool water

It is highly important that cows are provided cool water during periods of high temperature. Water is the primary nutrient needed to make milk and cows drink up to 50 percent more water when the temperature-humidity index is above 80. Water should be easily accessible to cows and located in a position such that cows do not have to cross areas of hot sun.

Commercial trial with Anco FIT in cows during summer heat

Gut agility activators, such as Anco FIT and Anco FIT Farm are designed to support the cow to adapt to challenges including heat stress more efficiently by minimising stress reactions including oxidative stress at the cellular level, shifts in the rumen balance and reduced feed intake.

Feedback from a commercial dairy farm with 750 cows in Germany during months where temperatures were recorded above 26°C included that SCC over a period of 3 months were reduced by 13% and milk fat and protein levels increased by 3%. Furthermore, treatments for high SCC were reduced from 5 treatments/week to 1-2 treatments per week. Cows were fed a ration based on corn silage, grass silage, soya and grains, where Anco FIT was added at 30g/cow/day and received a milking concentrate in the milking robot.

It was concluded that feeding Anco FIT to dairy cows during hotter months helped the cows to cope with the heat better and reduce some of the stress reactions that would otherwise impact milk quality and cow wellbeing.

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Farm resilience starts in the bird – feed for adaptability

Farm resilience is emerging as a key success factor in times of great uncertainty. Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and change at its best. However, adding factors like climate change, the Covid 19 crisis and rapid changes in consumer demand into the mix exacerbates the need for the capacity of farms to adsorb shocks and adapt to change quickly to survive economically in the long-term.

Farm resilience versus farm optimization

Resilience thinking highlights that in the long run for a farm to persevere optimising resource allocation under known conditions will not be enough. Resilience is a concept that acknowledges unpredictability and emphasizes the need to enable adaptability and transformability of systems instead of optimizing them.

A farm management approach based on resilience comes up with systems that can absorb and accommodate future events in whatever unexpected form they may come. It follows that resources are allocated to strategies that allow reducing the impact of a wide variety of potential unknown events and on identifying emergent opportunities. However, fewer resources are spent on improvements in efficiency.

A crisis, such as Covid 19, may be a trigger for transformational change, since it is more likely that new alternative organizational forms will be considered.

Feeding birds for resilience

In a poultry production system, farm resilience also depends on how well birds can cope with unforeseen challenges in their feed and the environment. This is because less resilient birds will have greater fluctuations in their performance leading to a decreased cost-effectiveness of poultry feeds and a lower likelihood of reaching performance targets. With poultry feed representing around 70% of the total cost of poultry production systems it also means more variability in farm profits. Lower resilience in birds can also lead to increased susceptibility of disease which can cause further losses in the long run.

Research has shown that certain feed supplements can play a role in management strategies designed to reduce the impact of stressors on poultry well-being and performance. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry was proven to improve the capacity of broilers and laying hens to cope with stressors under commercial conditions and enhance the birds endogenous defense mechanisms to buffer stress reactions on the cellular level more efficiently in a research environment.

More resilience means less need for antibiotics

Feeding birds for adaptability to increase resilience can also help to reduce the need for antibiotics. Minimizing stress reactions, such as reduced gut integrity and oxidative stress, by nutritional means also helps to reduce the susceptibility of birds to disease that may otherwise require the need for treatments with antibiotics or the use of antibiotic growth promotors in the feed.

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Heat stress in pigs – nutritional interventions that work

Heat stress in pigs puts an economic strain on pig production in many countries of the world and the current climate changes have increased the prevalence and intensity of heat stress. Nutritional interventions supporting resilience mechanisms represent a practical, adaptable and cost-effective strategy to mitigate the negative effects of heat stress and improve animal productivity.

Economic losses from heat stress in pigs

Compared to other animals, pigs are more sensitive to heat stress due to their high metabolic heat production, quick fat deposition, and lack of sweat glands. Heat stress-induced economic losses result from reduced and inconsistent growth, poor sow performance and increased mortality and morbidity. In the US alone heat stress is costing pig farmers around $50 to $60 per pig each year. Regions around the world most affected by climate change are likely to see an increase in the detrimental effects of heat stress on animal production and welfare in the future. On top of that genetic selection for increased litter size and leaner phenotypes leads to an increase in thermal sensitivity in pigs, due to increased basal heat production.

Summer heat stress in sows

Sows suffer from heat stress in environmental temperatures above 25°C. Heat stress in sows has been shown to reduce feed intake, from 655 g/day to more than 2 kg per day, with subsequent negative consequences for reproduction, milk production and piglet growth. If the sow is maintained under heat stress conditions for a long period, there is a risk that the animal will overheat, which can lead to death via hyperthermia. In countries with tropical conditions such as Brazil this is very common. According to researchers in Brazil, lactating sows of some genetic lines can have up to 15% mortality during Brazilian summers due to heat stress conditions. In gestating sows there is some evidence that heat stress during pregnancy can have in utero negative effects on the offspring’s thermoregulatory capabilities.

Heat stress in fattening pigs

Research has shown that it only takes 2-6 hours of heat stress (37C and 40% humidity) to compromise feed intake and intestinal integrity in growing pigs. Studies in finishing pigs have also shown oxidative stress in the liver in response to chronic heat stress at 30 °C. The drop in feed intake in response to heat stress increases as the body weight increases in pigs. Pigs of 60-100kg raised in Brazil during the summer months have been reported to have a reduction in growth rates of around 15% compared to pigs raised during the winter.

Management interventions for heat stress in pigs

Flexible, affordable management approaches to immediately decrease heat stress susceptibility without negatively influencing traditional production traits are of great value to pig production. However, the input cost for optimal cooling technology is very costly and often too expensive for smaller producers.

Dietary supplementation and modifications are less costly easily adjustable tactics and are suitable for all production systems.

Nutrition
• Consider the thermal effect of feed and reduce fibres and crude proteins, which generate a lot of heat.
• Increase the fat content of the diet
• Feed pigs during the cooler hours of the day
• Provide pigs with unlimited access to cool and fresh drinking water
• Adapt vitamin, mineral and amino acid levels in feed to the pig requirements under heat stress

Supporting resilience mechanisms by nutritional means

Research increasing the understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in heat stress induced inflammation and intestinal barrier disruption paves the way to nutritional strategies to preserve the physiological performance of the gut. Many of the negative consequences that heat stress has on pig health and productivity are mediated by reduced intestinal barrier integrity, which is followed by inflammatory responses.

At the cellular level, hyperthermia leads to disruption of intestinal epithelial integrity, by affecting tight junctions. Damage to tight junctions facilitates the transfer of toxins and pathogens from the gut through the epithelial barrier, contributing to an exaggeration of inflammatory responses, which can further worsen the intestinal damage. Hyperthermia provokes the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, it can also directly impair the antioxidant defence system of the animal, which eventually leads to oxidative stress and intracellular damage. Studies in growing pigs have shown an inverse relationship between oxidative status and growth performance, whereby pigs with a higher oxidative stress status had poorer performance.

Nutritional solutions which have the capacity to preserve cellular homeostasis by enhancing cellular defense systems, thereby reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as maintain intestinal integrity are considered to be able to help protect animals against the adverse effects of heat stress.

Gut agility activators are feed supplements that were specifically formulated to enhance the resilience of animals, by supporting cellular defense systems and enabling more efficient responses to stressors including heat stress thus mitigating the impact on performance.

Sow trial with Anco FIT during summer months

A recent sow lactation trial carried out in the summer months in Argentina, showed increased feed intake (21%) and improved lactation performance in sows fed the gut agility activator Anco FIT compared to sows on a control diet.

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Feeding cows for adaptive capacity in the transition period

The adaptive capacity of the cow determines transition success. When dairy cows fail to adapt physiologically to the demands of calving and the onset of milk production, the resulting metabolic stress leads to transition cow disorders with negative consequences for milk production, reproduction efficiency and longevity. The high prevalence of metabolic disorders and production disease around calving highlight the fact that many farm systems do not provide adequate solutions and are overstretching the adaptation capacity of their cows. Understanding the underlying mechanisms and factors exacerbating metabolic stress during transition can help to find nutritional solutions that enhance the adaptive capacity in transition dairy cows.

Transition failures

The transition period is a demanding time for dairy cows and around 30% to 50% of dairy cows are affected by some form of metabolic or infectious disease, around the time of calving. This includes milk fever ketosis, retained placenta and mastitis. A declining availability of qualified dairy staff is likely to exacerbate this, as it means that cows are receiving less individual attention to identify and respond to health issues. When disorders occur, it is a demonstration that cows have difficulties in coping with external and internal conditions, endangering their own capacity to survive. It shows that the cows are failing to adapt to changes, stressors and gaps between nutrient supply and demand.

During the transition period dairy cows must adjust metabolically to a dramatic increase in energy and nutrient requirements needed for foetal growth and onset of milk production, exceeding the amount of energy the cow receives from dietary sources. This makes the cow susceptible to a negative energy balance. A negative energy balance initiates lipid mobilization, which again leads to high concentrations of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFAs). Metabolism of large amounts of NEFAs to ketone bodies induces an increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can eventually lead to oxidative stress in the liver of dairy cows.

Increased oxidative stress in dairy cows is recognized as an underlying factor of dysfunctional inflammatory responses and it has been linked to the occurrence of transition disorders. Oxidative stress in the liver is known to cause inflammatory damage of the liver, which impairs the metabolic function of liver cells and promotes the development of ketosis. In the mammary gland it has been associated with increased somatic cell counts in milk and the incidence of mastitis. Overall, these findings lead to the assumption that the underlying mechanisms that exacerbate metabolic stress and cause health disorders in transition dairy cows are combined effects of altered nutrient metabolism, oxidative stress and dysfunctional inflammatory responses.

Transition success

Successful adaptation avoids metabolic disorders in the transition period. Overall dairy cows are more likely to succeed in adaptation in the transition period when the gap between nutrient demands and supply is limited. However, there are also indications in the literature that even when cows had comparable energy balance, there is considerable individual variation of the adaptive ability of cows during early lactation based on metabolic and endocrine variables. Therefore, another approach is to find ways to support the cow in her ability to cope with nutritional and metabolic challenges, which would actually help the cow’s adaptability for transition success.

This amongst other things requires the identification of relevant markers that enable the measurement of achieving improved adaptability. One obvious marker for oxidative stress is the level of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, more recent research suggests that the oxidative stress index (OSi) predicts oxidative status more accurately. The OSi is the ratio between ROS and serum antioxidant capacity.  The researh shows that the OSi is significantly increased in dairy cows around calving, compared to levels at dry-off and at 30 days post calving. So one way of identifying improved adaptive capacity of cows in the transition period could be to measure the oxidative stress index in response to nutritional interventions.

Nutritional support for adaptive capacity

Researchers report that genetic selection for increased milk yield has decreased the adaptability of modern dairy cows. However, a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms for adaptability in dairy cows is helping the development of nutritional solutions to enhance the cow’s ability to cope more efficiently with nutritional and metabolic challenges.

For instance feeding plant extracts with high antioxidative powers can help to increase the level of antioxidative enzymes and antioxidants to support the cow’s own antioxidative defense in the liver. Feeding those type of components can give the liver a better chance of fighting ROS produced in the transition period and thus minimize the negative consequences from oxidative stress on liver function. A large part of the capacity of the adaptation of ruminants to dietary challenges is allowed by the rumen, so feed supplements designed to help maintain rumen efficiency are also going to ease the transition to lactation. However, attempts to reduce the prevalence of metabolic disorders and associated production diseases should rely on continuous and comprehensive monitoring with appropriate indicators on the farm level.

Published in International Dairy Topics by Gwendolyn Jones

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Businesses that did not understand why agility matters to business success are waking up to just how much it matters in the face of the Covid 19 crisis. This is true for any industry including agriculture.

How do you respond to Covid 19?

Remember what happened to the Titanic in the face of an iceberg? Businesses, industries, governments and individuals all over the world are now tested for how quickly they can adapt to a major disruption and spot the opportunities. Everybody is faced with the same question, “How do we respond to Covid 19?” Individual response and the speed of it will matter to the health and economic outcome of the crisis for each of us, businesses, industries and nations all the same. Nature created the perfect storm to test personal agility levels and those of businesses.

“It is not the strongest that survive – it is the most adaptable to change”- – Charles Darwin

Organizational agility or business agility

Business agility, also known as organizational agility, is the capability of a business to be adaptive and flexible through a changing environment and to overcome challenges as they surface with minimal impact to the business. Times of crisis tells businesses just how agile they are. As change is happening so fast, companies need to be able to do these things very quickly to optimize operations for peak performance, exploit opportunities and mitigate risks. Agility is all about how we as individuals and organizations respond to challenges and at what speed, which will ultimately determine the impact the challenge will have on us and on organizations.

“Research shows that in a volatile and uncertain world agility separates the best from the rest.” – Krupp (2020)

In the current crisis leaders must be highly agile to break free of old mental models and politics or business as usual. They need to be able to learn and adapt fast.  Agile leaders demonstrate four skills in times of crisis: adaptability, resilience, learning, and foresight:

Adaptability – Shifting priorities quickly due to rapidly changing external and internal dynamics
Resilience: Bouncing forward from setbacks and failure
Learning: Testing assumptions, failing fast, and continuously iterating in real time
Foresight: Anticipating and being prepared to pivot with market changes

Agility and adaptability are critical to farming

Farming deals with a lot of uncertainties and changes at its best. Therefore, successful farming relies on the producer’s or farmer’s capacity to respond to changing markets, environmental conditions and consumer preferences. So, the future of farming lies in an agile production system and this has only been exacerbated by the Covid 19 crisis. The most sustainable thing to do is focus on those things over which a farm has direct control. Of those the most critical is agility, which enables the producer to continuously adjust what he does to take advantage of external factors or at least reduce the potential negative impact on the business.

Our food production system needs resilience in the face of a volatile trade environment and climate change. Again, this is why speed is of the essence and agility matters in agriculture.

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Dairy farming resilience – 3 reasons to keep your cows agile

The competitive environment for dairy farming requires farm management strategies for resilient production systems that can recover from or adapt to changes in environmental, social or economic conditions. There is probably no time like the current Covid 19 crisis that proves just how important resilience is for production systems.

Resilience applies to the farm, but also to individual animals. Several research programs in different parts of the world are investigating ways of genetically improving resilience in dairy cows. Resilience in the cow is determined by her adaptive capacity, which is the mechanism of the cow that empowers her to cope with internal or external disturbances, stressors or with changes in the environment.

Here are the top reasons for finding ways to Improve the adaptive capacity In dairy cows or In other words to keep dairy cows agile.

1) Consistent milk productivity and quality

Common stress reactions to stressors in the feed and in the environment, are oxidative stress, inflammation at the cellular level, shifts in rumen efficiency and reduction in feed intake. They will all lead to wasted energy and increased maintenance energy or a reduction in energy intake, which again will have consequences for milk yield and quality. Improving the adaptive capacity of dairy cows, will help to reduce the stress reactions In response to challenges and stressors and hence the Impact they can have on milk production and quality. As a result there are less fluctuations and less deviations from expected milk productivity and quality, which also means a more stable Income from cows.

2) Transition management in dairy farming

The transition period is a demanding time for dairy cows and when they fail to adapt physiologically to the demands of calving and the onset of milk production, the resulting metabolic stress leads to transition cow disorders with negative consequences for milk production, reproduction efficiency and longevity. Improving the adaptive capacity in dairy cows can enable the dairy cow to weather the transition period more successfully.

3) Shortages in qualified labour for dairy farming

One of the biggest pain points of dairy farms today is attracting skilled labour. Farmers are finding it difficult to get people to work on farms. It is even more difficult to source domestic labour and many dairy farmers are relying on foreign workers within their workforce. So the Covid 19 crisis and new immigration laws can exacerbate the shortage in qualified labour on dairy farms. A shortage in skilled labour means that caring for cow health and optimal performance becomes more challenging. One solution to this is to breed and manage for resilient cows that are easier to manage. Feeding for improved adaptive capacity to Increase resilience In dairy cows can make a difference to the amount of care a cow requires and thus to the amount of labour needed on the farm.

Nutritional solutions

New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and keep animals agile by nutritional means for improved resilience.

The gut agility activator Anco FIT helps the cow to adapt to nutritional and environmental challenges more efficiently by minimising stress reactions such as oxidative stress and reduced feed intake, that would otherwise impact performance and wellbeing of the cow. Heat stress, transition period and mycotoxins are known factors which normally lead to increased oxidative stress and or a reduction in feed intake.

Keep yourself and your cows agile

The safest bet to keep yourself and your cows in the game in the face of unpredictability and change 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.

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How are egg prices and egg producers responding to Covid 19

Egg prices increased dramatically as consumers started to change their behaviour and habits with the Covid 19 outbreak.

Consumers had been stockpiling basic food items including milk, eggs and bread to prepare for potential quarantines. But as lockdowns were introduced and people had to stay at home actual consumption increased. People are no longer eating out, so the demand for eggs is shifting from the foodservice sector to the retail channel, as consumers are cooking more meals at home. There is also an increase in home-baking activities as some are taking to stress-baking to cope with isolation and others bake to keep their kids entertained and combat boredom. Egg consumption also increased to replace more expensive forms of protein in households that are seeing a decline in their income as a result of Covid 19 job losses.

As a result retail stores are struggling to meet the demand and then there is Easter just around the corner. On top of concerns for not being able to meet demand the poultry industry in the US is concerned that the ongoing labour shortage could be exacerbated due to the impact of the Covid 19 crisis.

How are egg producers responding

Egg producers are uncertain of how long the impact of the virus on the egg market will last, so are unlikely to increase the number of hens in response to the increased demand for eggs caused by Covid 19. However, some egg producers aim to keep hens longer than they normally would to boost the number of eggs produced and meet demand. They are converting food service lines into retail where possible to meet the changing consumer demand.

Like in many other industries Covid 19 may also be a catalyst to digitization of operations, meaning that egg producers could adopt AI and IoT based solutions faster than they would otherwise.

This could include tools that enable farm managers to share data within the production team, while reducing the amount of time needed to be spent in face-to-face interactions, which can help make better decisions faster but also reduce the risk of spreading the virus. AI in the form of robots, which reduce floor egg incidence and the need for human intervention. IoT devices and species specific sensors for the poultry house can be used to capture data on bird weight, light levels, temperature, water usage, ammonia levels, which not only allows real-time observation at all times to manage chicken houses remotely, but also provides the opportunity for predictive modelling. For example it allows producers to predict when pullets reach their target weight and help farmers make corrections in management as needed.

Advantage of resilience in laying hens

Resilience in animals has been defined as the capacity of an animal to be minimally affected by disturbances or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a disturbance. Breeding for resilience in laying hen is being proposed as a strategy to obtain trouble-free hens which are easy-to-manage and enjoy greater health. This again would mean less need for human interventions, with less fluctuations in hen performance and greater laying persistence in the flock. So more resilient laying hens would also mean an advantage to cope with some of the challenges on managing flocks imposed by Covid 19. There is also the possibility to support resilience in laying hens by nutritional means and feeding for adaptive capacity.

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Stay at home and manage pig health remotely

Staying at home to work is the new norm in many countries right now. But how can you manage pig health and care for pigs, when you have to stay at home? The good news is there is a solution available that enables pork producers and swine veterinarians to recognize and respond to pig health issues remotely and in real-time.

Tune in to the second episode of the Keep Agile Keep Farming Podcast and listen to the chat with the founder and CEO of the company who developed this solution.

One important ability for pig producers to keep agile is being able to identify and respond to health issues quickly to save profits and pigs’ lives. Chris Bomgaars, who grew up pig farming in Iowa, is now the CEO of EveryPig, who developed a platform for pig producers and veterinarians, which enables them to share information in real time and work together as a team even on a remote basis.

“Pig farming in Iowa inspired me to find solutions for recognizing and responding to pig health issues faster” – Chris Bomgaars

With the help of the app pig producers can digitize daily pig records on their smart phones and upload them to the EveryPig telehealth platform within seconds, where others of their pig production team have immediate access to the data and can also comment on actions to take. On top of that it allows for images to be shared that veterinarians can then use to diagnose health problems without having to set foot onto the farm.

In times of African Swine Fever virus and a Corona virus pandemic this is a much welcomed tool in the pig industry, because there is one thing that these two health threats have in common: containment is a key measure to prevent the spread of the viruses. Plus preventing the spread of the viruses is crucial because there is no vaccine or treatment available for either of them to date.

The control and eradication of African Swine Fever in pig production still relies on rapid detection in the field followed by the application of strict sanitary measures. It also requires the containment of pigs to not allow contact with pigs from other farms and no contact between farm staff and external pigs.

Currently the Coronavirus Covid 19 enforces very similar measures on humans all over the world, making stay at home, self-isolation and working from home the new norm.

As a result there is now a growing need in both pig production and human health care for telemedicine. In other words we need to be able to care for pigs and humans remotely to help reduce the spread of the viruses. The EveryPig platform is enabling telehealth for pigs, where swine veterinarians can identify and respond to pig health issues remotely.

Imagine helping to save pigs’ and human lives from your home office and work more efficiently as a team. It is all possible now. Stay home, stay safe and most of all stay connected to kill two viruses with one stone.

Relevant links

Watch the trailer video to the Keep Agile Keep Farming Episode 2 here.

Relevant measures to prevent the Spread of African Swine Fever in the European Union Domestic Pig Sector