Feeding sows and piglets for piglet resilience to weaning stress

How piglets cope with weaning stress has a significant impact on their subsequent performance. A commercial sow trial supervised by the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil evaluated piglet pre-and post-weaning performance in response to a feeding regime involving the gut agility activator Anco FIT.

Stressors at weaning

During the weaning process the pig is subjected to a number of different stressors: Abrupt separation from the sow, transportation and handling stress, change in diet, social hierarchy stress, co-mingling with pigs from other litters, change in environment, increased exposure to pathogens, and dietary or environmental antigens.

What matters is how the piglet adapts to the weaning stress

The piglet must adapt to the above stressors rapidly in order to be productive, healthy and efficient. On the cellular and gut level, the stressors at weaning will cause stress reactions, such as oxidative stress, reduced gut integrity, reduced feed intake and inflammatory responses. The extent of these reactions will determine the impact of weaning stress on subsequent health and performance of the piglet. This means that managing the piglet to reduce the stress reactions, will lead to a more resilient pig, i.e. lower fluctuations in performance and better health.

Nutritional solution for greater resilience

A gut agility activator is a feed solution designed to help the animal to adapt to stressors more efficiently by nutritional means. Part of its formula is a combination of bioactive compounds derived from herbs and spices known to reduce common stress reactions, such as antioxidative stress and reduced gut integrity.

Feeding the gut agility activator to highly prolific sows during lactation is expected to improve energy available for milk production due to reducing the extent of stress reactions in sows. As a result pre-weaning piglet growth is better, which again helps the piglets to be stronger at weaning.

In the post weaning diet for piglets, the gut agility activator is expected to help reduce the stress reactions in response to weaning stressors on the cellular and gut level in piglets. This should then increase the energy available for growth, since the stress reactions would normally increase maintenance energy and make piglets more susceptible to disease.

Evaluation of a gut agility activator on a sow farm in Brazil

The animal science department of the University of Sao Paulo evaluated the gut agility activator Anco FIT in a feeding program designed to improve adaptation to weaning in piglets in a commercial sow farm.

Experimental design

100 sows (PICxCamborough) were split into two groups 14 days pre-farrowing. One group was fed a control corn-soy diet and the other group was fed the control diet including 1kg/t of Anco FIT until the end of lactation. Average litter size per sow after fostering was 14 piglets. Piglets were weighed after fostering at birth and at weaning (26.5 days). Piglets stayed within groups post weaning. Piglets from sows fed Anco FIT received Anco FIT in their diets post weaning. Both groups of piglets were weighed at day 22 and day 33 post-weaning.

Results

Piglets from sows fed Anco FIT in their diets tended to have higher weaning weights despite being on average 1 day younger at weaning than piglets from control sows. In the post-weaning phase Anco FIT piglets grew significantly faster than control pigs and had significantly higher weights at day 22 and day 33 post weaning (+9.2% and +9.3% respectively). This was mainly due to a significantly increased feed conversion ratio in Anco FIT piglets post-weaning.

Conclusion

A feeding strategy comprising the application of the gut agility activator Anco FIT to sows diets in lactation, followed by adding Anco FIT to piglet diets post weaning improved overall piglet performance from birth to day33 post weaning compared to the control feeding regime on a commercial sow farm. The improved FCR seen in Anco FIT piglets in the post weaning period might be explained by Anco FIT helping to reduce stress reactions on the cellular and gut level and thus saving energy for growth.

Related articles

Anco FIT – Managing cost- effectiveness of pig diets
The biological stress of early weaned piglets. Journal of Animal Science, 2013  

Behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer

Every day a farmer works hard to produce the food we eat. Nevertheless, many take healthy food for granted and are completely out of touch with what it takes to produce it, yet alone show appreciation for the work of famers.

Like, Dwight D. Eisenhower, former president of the United States, once said in the 1950s: ”Farming looks easy when your plow is a pencil and you are a thousand miles from a corn field.”

Fast forward to today and the people that are complaining about farming the loudest and demanding the most are often the ones furthest away from the reality of the fields.

Thankfully the cities do not only produce moaners, when it comes to farming. There are also brave “city people” trading in their city lives for farming as first generation farmers, even becoming big advocates for farming. Such as the female farmers known as Red Shepherdess, Yorkshire Shepherdess and Farm Babe to name a few. They have some amazing stories to share about farming and do a great job of letting people in on their stories on social media.

Some even create a whole film on it, such as Molly and John Chester in California with “The biggest little farm”, which was released in cinemas this year. Jeremy Clarkson, townie and famous for his car series, bought a farm with no knowledge in agriculture and is about to launch a series on his experience of running a farm on Amazon Prime Video.

However, there are also many multi generation farmers that have grown up on a farm, who are involved in bridging the gap between towns and countryside on social media. Some also winning awards for their initiatives, such as Simone Kaine and Ben Hood from South Australia. Their educational project “George the Farmer” aims to give both rural and city-based children a better understanding and connection to where their food comes from.

None of them beats around the bush, while they agree that farming can be a very rewarding and meaningful way of life, they also admit it is anything but easy. As Jeremy Clarkson discovers: “Of course to be a farmer you have to be an agronomist, a businessman, a politician, an accountant and a mechanic.”

To be a successful farmer you need to be smart: It is therefore not surprising that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest Census of Agriculture. Sixty-nine percent of the surveyed young farmers had college degrees — significantly higher than the general population.

Livestock farming today is expected to produce more food than ever before, at high welfare standards, from fewer resources and with the smallest possible impact on our environment. Healthy animals not only produce healthy food, they are also more efficient, reducing both cost of production and environmental impact. So, it is safe to say that behind every healthy animal is a strong farmer dedicated to produce healthy food. They deserve our support and admiration, after all they are the cornerstone to our food security and biggest contributors to our landscape.

And let us not forget, sustainable agriculture not only means the responsible use of the world’s finite resources and social acceptability, it also encompasses economic viability for the continuation of a thriving farming industry.

Today is national farmers day. Thank a farmer today and every day for healthy food on the table.

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anco - farmer - healthy animals

Impact of the mycotoxin DON in laying hens

Studies have shown a negative impact of deoxynivalenol, DON in laying hens, however results vary considerably between studies. Many scientific papers state that chickens are less sensitive to mycotoxins compared to other species.

So, should egg producers worry about DON in feed? The answer is, it depends. Here are some of the factors that need to be considered to assess the risk of DON in feed to the performance of laying hens and egg safety.

Factors determining the impact of DON in laying hens

Effects of DON on performance in laying hens varies considerably between studies. Whereas some studies report very little impact, other studies showed a significant impact of DON on laying rate/egg production, egg shell quality and weight gains in laying hens.

There are some factors that can explain the variance seen in results between studies examining the effect of DON on laying hens. Depending on the level of presence of these factors in the studies, the effect of DON on laying hen performance can be significant.

• Level of DON in feed and co-contamination with other mycotoxins
• Natural versus purified form of DON
• Length of exposure to DON in feed
• Stage of egg production
• Type of breed

Differences in toxic effects may be because some studies used artificially contaminated grain or a single source of contaminated grain. Artificially contaminated diets with purified DON are less toxic than naturally contaminated diets. This is mainly because the use of a blend of naturally contaminated grains increases the potential for other mycotoxins being present. Having multiple mycotoxins present can increase the effect of DON present as a result of toxicological synergies arising from interactions with the other mycotoxins. Egg production was negatively affected in hens fed a diet containing sorghum that was contaminated with zearalenone (ZON) at a level of 1.1 mg/kg and DON at a level of 0.3 mg/kg. The effect in this study was thought to be due to the synergistic effect of DON and ZON.

Longer periods of exposure to DON in the diet generally showed a greater impact on the performance of laying hens compared to studies where the hens were only exposed to DON for a few weeks. Another study comparing the effect of DON on laying hens between stages of production showed that DON had more of an effect in months 7-12, than in the first 6 months of production.

What is also of interest to note is that not all breeds of laying hens respond the same to DON. For example, a study comparing Lohmann Brown laying hens with LSL Lohmann laying hens demonstrated that Lohmann Brown laying hens are more sensitive to DON.

Underlying mechanisms for negative responses

Chickens are less sensitive compared to other species. This can be attributed to differences in DON absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination. Nevertheless, there are still studies that have shown negative effects on laying hen performance. This has been attributed to some extent to a reduction in feed intake in association with DON in diets. Other studies have indicated that DON has an influence on intestinal morphology of chickens and nutrient absorption (glucose and amino acids), which can reduce nutrient efficiency of laying hens. For example, it was shown that DON can alter the structure of the duodenal and jejunal mucosa in the form of shorter and thinner villi.

Disease susceptibility in response to DON in feed

DON has been shown to impair immunological functions in chickens. The impact of DON on the immune system ranges from immunosuppression to immunostimulation, according to its concentration, duration and time of exposure.

An important immunotoxic effect of DON in diets for laying hens is the reduction of white
blood cell and total lymphocyte numbers. On top of that low doses of DON upregulate the expression of inflammation related genes and proinflammatory cytokines.

DON is shown to suppress the antibody response to infectious bronchitis vaccine (IBV) and to Newcastle disease virus (NDV) in laying hens (3.5 to 14 mg of DON/kg feed), respectively.

The dysregulation of the immune system together with the negative impact of DON on gut function can lead to increasing the susceptibility of poultry flocks to infectious diseases.

Does DON in feed pose risks for egg safety and human health?

DON can cause health problems such as nausea, gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea in humans. Therefore, it is important to ensure that it is not transmitted from chicken feed into eggs at a rate that can cause health risks for humans.

A 2018 study from China looking at mycotoxin levels in eggs in three different areas in China (Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai) reported DON, 15-AcDON, and Zearelone as the most frequently observed mycotoxins in eggs. The highest levels of contamination were noted in Shanghai with up to 50% testing positive. Subsequent risk assessment for humans concluded that the risk of causing problems to humans in all three areas was low based on the levels of mycotoxins that were found in eggs and normal egg consumption. The DON intake through eggs was still below the provisional maximum tolerable daily intake. However, the study did highlight the need to monitor DON in feed and to restrict permitted levels of DON in feed.

Scientific studies looking at the carry-over effect of DON from feed to eggs in laying hens concluded that the carry-over effect of DON into eggs is very low. Such that providing that the DON level of chicken feed does not exceed current guidelines (5ppm) there is certainly no health risk to humans.

A very recent study carried out in 2019 demonstrated that DON occurs mainly as its non-toxic metabolite DON-3Ss in eggs from laying hen fed DON contaminated feed.

Video:  How does the mycotoxin DON affect the performance of laying hens?

Please see second half of this video.

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The power of resilience and agility for farmers

The power of resilience helps us bounce back and move forward from challenging situations. This also depends on the capacity to adapt effectively to change and stressful situations or in other words it also depends on personal agility. With people working in agriculture, particularly farmers, facing a lot of uncertainty, new challenges and changes in consumer preferences and regulations, resilience is a key requirement to thrive and be successful. The good news is that resilience can be learned and developed.

Farmers themselves realise that they cannot sit back and be a passive partner to change. The question is what they can do personally to enhance their own ability to cope with change and adversity, which is covered further down in this article.

Importance of resilience in farming

Agricultural resilience is about equipping farmers to absorb and recover from shocks and stresses to their agricultural production and livelihoods. Several authorities across the world point to the growing importance of building resilience and adaptive capacity in rural communities and farming. There are also charities that are proactively supporting it, including the Prince’s Countryside Fund, who runs a farm resilience programme.

To become truly resilient, farm businesses require adaptability and transformability, is the argument of an EU‐wide group of scientists of 16 universities and research institutes from 11 European countries currently working together in the project SURE‐Farm. Previously policies and market instruments were mainly aimed at maintaining stability of the farm business. This group defines resilience for agriculture as maintaining the essential functions of EU farming systems in the face of increasingly complex and volatile economic, social, environmental and institutional challenges. Consultant firms also looking at other industries are stressing the importance of the ability to be agile and self-disrupt as critical for organizational resilience.

Adaptability in agriculture is the capacity to adjust responses to changing external drivers and internal processes and thereby allow for development along the current trajectory while continuing important functionalities.

Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when environmental, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable in order to provide important functionalities.

Obviously, resilience is becoming an important topic for people researching the sustainability and survival of rural communities and farming systems. Measures are being taken to improve our understanding of what makes a farm resilient, right down to improving the resilience of farm animals.

However, the resilience of people running the farm also has an important role to play. Here we want to discuss some of the factors that matter for the resilience of an individual and the steps farmers or any other individual can take to develop stronger personal resilience.

What defines a resilient person

Most people will define resilience as the ability to recover from setback, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity and change.

However, a more modern take on resilience is: advancing (not just bouncing back) despite adversity.

What matters is how we respond to challenges and our outlook. Resilience requires that we reprogram ourselves so that the automatic stress response does not overwhelm us, and we are able to respond to a situation effectively.

A 2017 study including 800 adults from 42 countries, highlighted by the magazine Psychology Today, reveals the most important character strength for resilience to overcome life stress. They found that hope was a significant moderator of well-being in the face of negative life events. However, hope in this study did not just mean being optimistic about things getting better in the future. Here hope means having goals and pursuing them energetically and flexibly, finding many different pathways to getting positive results.

Doug Avery, a farmer from New Zealand who went through some very tough times because of drought, describes his path to resilience in his book “The resilient farmer”. He is currently touring and encouraging farmers to learn to be resilient and adapt in different parts of the world. Doug Avery also shares what resilient people do not do.

8 things resilient people don’t do (Doug Avery)

• Waste time feeling sorry for themselves. • Shy away from change. • Waste time on things they can’t control. • Dwell on the past. • Make the same mistakes, over and over. • Resent another’s success. • Give up after failure. • Feel the world owes them something.

How can we develop our personal resilience to adapt for the future

Many years of research point to the fact that resilience is built by attitudes, behaviors and social supports that can be adopted and cultivated by anyone. Resilience is learnable, but also involves a sense of safety and strong social support system.

Eventually all of us will face some form of adversity. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Resilience is about how we deal with adversity. So, it makes sense to develop resilience ahead of time, before facing a crisis.

Our innate biological response to change activates a stress reaction. Nevertheless, by building a mindset of resilience and acting with agility in the face of challenging and difficult situations, we can also turn adversities into advantages.

Something you can do straight away and is advocated by Psychology Today is:

1) Pick one or two life goals that are most important to you and describe as many different strategies as you can for achieving them.
2) Think about any obstacles you may face to achieving these goals.
3) Write down what coping strategies you can use to overcome these obstacles.
With this type of goal-oriented resilience, you can stay focused on what is important when facing a difficult situation.

The resilience institute developed a method for measuring resilience in people. One of their findings in a recent report is that the most resilient people reported a strong ability to focus, which was almost not existent in people with low resilience. Another interesting finding was that low resilience people report high amounts of fatigue, while highly resilient people reported very little fatigue. So, one simple step to resilience could also be to make sure to get enough quality sleep. Resilience training was reported to lower levels of depression, reduce sickness-related absence and increase self-esteem.

A very interesting insight was shared at this year’s Resilient Farmer Conference: Being resilient does not mean, that you do not need help. Quite the opposite, it is the resilient people who ask for help when they need it.

Having a strong support network and having people to talk to and ask for help is a key factor in making it through difficult times. Therefore, taking time to socialize and network to build your personal support network and good relationships is vital. Isolation will make you less resilient.

Looking after your mental health is just as important as looking after your physical health. A 2019 study from the University of Guelph in Canada involving 1132 farmers illustrates a critical need for research and interventions related to mental health of farmers. The average resilience scores of farmers in this Canadian study were lower than population norms reported for several general populations in the US. Other countries are also reporting concerns about the state of mental health in their farming communities.

Dairy Australia have some good points to build emotional resilience:
• Positive self-talk
• Focus on the things you can control – know what you can control and stop wasting energy on things you can’t
• Connecting with community – whether it is offline or online connect with positive people. The more people you interact with, the greater the likelihood that you will meet people who have experienced, survived and grown through similar experiences.

Find helplines

In the UK there are a number of organizations and charities that can offer support to farmers for mental health, which can be found on Twitter (for example: @FCNcharity, @dpjfoundation, @NFUtweets, @Ag_psych, @yellowwelliesuk). In Canada you can turn to @domoreag and in the US you can call FARM AID (1-800-327-6243, @FarmAid). This is not a complete list, but highlights that help is available to farmers. The important thing is to reach out for help if you need it.

More and more farmers are talking about mental health and support each other on #AgTwitter.

The power of resilience

Resilience provides a framework for personal well-being and success. It defines how you respond to adversity. In an era of rapid technological change, great uncertainty, economic, political and climatic turbulence resilience is increasingly becoming a highly valuable asset. Not acting to proactively develop your personal resilience, almost certainly will set you back in farming and your life in today’s and even more in the future world. Maintaining personal resilience needs to be an ongoing exercise in your life.

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Animal Resilience – Harnessing the power of plant resilience

Resilience – economic value in animal production

For better FCR invest in anti-oxidative capacity

Reducing antibiotic growth promotors in animal feed calls for the development of new strategies to improve feed conversion (FCR) in poultry production systems. This represents unique opportunities to explore the biochemical and physiological sources of inter-animal variations associated with FCR. Research has demonstrated a genetic link between feed conversion ratio and mitochondrial ROS (reactive oxygen species) production at the cellular level in broilers. More recent studies indicate a positive relationship between increased anti-oxidative capacity in broilers induced by certain plant extracts in feed and improved FCR.

Relationship between FCR and antioxidative capacity

Feed efficiency has been heavily weighted in breeding objectives for meat producing poultry for over 40 years and as a result, major gains have been made. More recent investigations by a poultry science group from the University of Arkansas provide a picture of the basis of feed efficiency (FE) at the cellular level. Oxidative stress turned out to be a cellular activity affecting feed efficiency.

The studies showed that animals with higher feed efficiency had better mitochondrial function that included less mitochondrial ROS production and less oxidation of proteins. Although feed intake was not different between low and high FE broilers, high FE broilers gained more weight and feed conversion ratios were significantly different between high and low FE groups. The level of protein carbonyl, an indicator of protein oxidation, was higher in mitochondria isolated from breast muscle of low FE compared with high FE broilers, which indicated higher oxidative stress in low FE birds.

Building on the knowledge of the link between antioxidative capacity and improved FCR in broilers from genetic research, certain plant components could offer an additional and safe way to improve FCR by nutritional means.

Anti-oxidative power from plants

The exposure of plants to unfavourable environmental conditions increases the production of ROS, which uncontrolled leads to cell damage from oxidative stress. Consequently, it is essential for plants to have sophisticated ROS detoxification processes for protection of plant cells against the negative effects of ROS. Many herbs and spices contain high levels of components with strong antioxidative power, such as alkaloids and polyphenolic compounds including different types of phenolic terpenes, phenolic acids and flavonoids.

Nutritional boost for anti-oxidative capacity in birds

Recent studies carried out by the University in Athens confirmed that feeding a phytogenic formula containing certain phenolic terpenes and flavonoids to broilers significantly increased the antioxidative capacity in breast tissue, thigh, liver tissue and certain parts of the gut. Parameter for ROS scavenging activity, activity of antioxidative enzymes and reduced lipid peroxidation were significantly improved in those tissues. This study showed that there was a positive correlation between antioxidative capacity in the breast tissue of broilers and improvements in FCR (P<0.05). This indicates that feeding strategies for increased antioxidative capacity could support feed efficiency in broilers, which is subject to further research.

Benefits package from antioxidant plant components

Feeding strong antioxidative components from herbs and spices, such as certain phenolic terpenes and flavonoids offer an opportunity to naturally improve antioxidative capacity in broilers and thereby improve FCR for more profitable and sustainable production. The impact can be expected to be greater when birds are exposed to stressors such as heat, toxins and the likelihood for oxidative stress is high. Additional benefits from feeding these components may include better meat quality and stability. Cost-efficacy depends on finding the right composition, dosage and bioavailability.

Relevant scientific abstracts

Phytogenic premix effects on gene expression of intestinal antioxidant enzymes and broiler meat antioxidant capacity

Effects of dietary inclusion level of a phytogenic premix on broiler growth performance, nutrient digestibility, total antioxidant capacity and gene expression of antioxidant enzymes

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.

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#Heatawarenessday – Are your birds prepared?

#heatawarenessday is today Friday 31st of May. The Heat Awareness Day is observed on the last Friday in May every year to remind us of rising temperatures due to climate change. The day was created in order to spread awareness to overcome high-temperature related issues.

The U.S. livestock production industry incurs an estimated total annual economic loss of $1.69 to $2.36 billion due to heat stress.

Heat stress in broilers and laying hens

Heat stress is one of the most important environmental factors impacting on performance of chicken. One of the main effects is reduced feed intake, with subsequent drops in growth rate, egg quality and egg production. Broilers subjected to chronic heat stress had a significant reduction of feed intake of −16.4%. Many studies have shown impaired growth performance in broilers subjected to heat stress. In laying hens, a 12-day heat stress period caused a daily feed intake reduction of 28.58 g/bird, resulting in a 28.8% decrease in egg production.

In general, birds react similarly to heat stress, but express individual variation of intensity and duration of responses, which may also be affected by intensity and duration of the heat stress event. increasing evidence indicates that much of the variation in response to heat stress is apparently genetically based.
Under high temperatures as the bird’s body attempts to maintain its thermal homeostasis, increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) occur. Consequently, the body enters a stage of oxidative stress, and starts producing and releasing heat shock proteins (HSP) to try and protect itself from the deleterious cellular effects of ROS.

Oxidative stress is the starting point of the intestinal permeability dysfunctional process. Under heat stress conditions, increased concentrations of ROS occur leading to increased intestinal permeability, which in turn facilitates the translocation of bacteria from the intestinal tract and inflammation.

The detrimental impact of heat stress on bird performance, urges producers to implement suitable managemental strategies to minimize the production losses incurred through heat stress in the poultry industry.

Heat resilience in chickens

As breeding goals increased production efficiency, the susceptibility towards heat stress also increased in domestic chicken. So, in the current changing climate scenario, researchers are looking for a permanent solution to heat stress to sustain poultry production longer term. Differences between genotypes of chicken in heat resilience provide evidence for the possibility of genetic intervention, when it comes to heat stress in chicken. Several superior thermo-tolerant genes have already been identified by researchers such as the naked neck gene, frizzle gene or the dwarf gene, which made the bird resistant to heat stress through slow and reduced feathering, curling the feather so as to improve the heat dissipation and reduction in body size to minimize metabolic heat production. Further genes were identified that increase the thermo-tolerance of birds without compromising the production potential.

Feeding for resilience to heat stress

New nutritional concepts, such as gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and hence resilience of the bird by nutritional means. They help the bird to adapt to nutritional challenges by minimizing stress reactions including oxidative stress and reduced feed intake, that would otherwise impact performance, health and wellbeing of the bird. The gut agility activator Anco FIT Poultry has shown to maintain high feed intakes and reduce oxidative stress in birds under heat stress compared to control animals and thus maintain higher growth performance.

References

Felver-Ghant, J.N. et al. (2012). Genetic variations alter physiological responses following heat stress in 2 strains of laying hens, Poultry Science
Lara, L.J. and Rostagno, M.H. (2013). Impact of Heat Stress on Poultry Production, Animals MDPI
Vandana, G.D. and Sejian, V. (2018). Towards identifying climate resilient poultry birds. Journal of Dairy, Veterinary & Animal Research

How some cows can give heat stress the cold shoulder

Some cows are cooler than others in the face of summer heat. What is their secret to resist heat stress? Scientists are beginning to discover that resilience plays an important role in dairy cows, when it comes to coping with rising temperatures.

Climate change drives research into heat stress

As June approaches temperatures are rising and so is the risk for heat stress in cows. Temperatures are rising, not just now, because we are at the end of May, but also in general. Our climate is changing, and we can expect to see increases in temperature over the coming century. According to recent predictions, global temperatures are expected to rise by 1.4–3.0°C by the end of this century. Not surprisingly several large-scale research projects are currently under way in different parts of the world for a better understanding of heat stress in cattle and more importantly to find ways of managing it more effectively. The goal being to maintain cow welfare, health and productivity in a sustainable way as temperatures rise. Strategies to mitigate heat stress include physical protection, nutritional management and more recently the potential for genetic improvement in heat tolerance is researched.

Milk yield and quality spoils with heat stress

Heat-stressed dairy cows produce less milk and the quality of their milk is reduced. On top of that heat stress can interfere with the cow’s ability to conceive and can increase susceptibility to disease. This can lead to significant economic losses. Consequently, there is considerably incentive to increase the capacity of dairy cows to maintain productivity and fitness in the face of stresses associated with climate change to support food security.

Science turns to resilience for heat tolerance

Several research groups across the world, for example in the UK, India, United States and Australia are researching the challenge of enhancing the resilience of livestock to climatic variability and climate change. They all essentially agree that animal agriculture’s adaptation to climate change should involve technological advances for climate resilient animals. However, continued selection for greater performance in the absence of consideration for heat tolerance will result in greater susceptibility to heat stress.

Scientists at the University of Armidale claim that for the concept of resilience the animal’s reactions with its environment are central. They characterise resilience as the capacity of the animal to return rapidly to its pre-challenge state following short-term exposure to a challenging situation. Therefore, resilience is a comparative measure of differences between animals in the impact of a challenge. Resilience can arise due to lower sensitivity or better adaptability to the challenge. Thus, resilience relies particularly on the reaction of the animal to stressors. Since, stress responses increase disease susceptibility, improving resilience of farm animals could also provide benefits for their health.

At the cellular level, acute environmental change initiates a “heat shock” or cellular stress response. Changes in gene expression associated with a reaction to an environmental stressor involves acute responses at the cellular level as well as changes in gene expression across a variety of organs and tissues associated with the acclimation response.

Gene expression profiling belongs to novel the approaches to identify higher number of transcripts and pathways related to stress tolerance mechanisms. It is known that genes reacting to a certain stress differ between organisms, species, breeds and even genotypes. The differences show in more efficient stress signal perception and transcriptional changes that can lead to successful adaptive response and adaptations and eventually further tolerance. Newer genomics approaches like next-generation sequencing (NGS) hold great promise for accelerating search for genes related to heat tolerance-related traits. NGS has been used to study variants in cattle to identify genes that contribute to heat tolerance.

Feeding for heat resilience

Improving the adaptive capacity of cows by nutritional means, can help to support resilience in cows to maintain performance under rising temperatures. Gut agility activators, such as Anco FIT 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. Those stress reactions would otherwise impact performance, health and wellbeing of the cow. Research has shown that milk fat depression during heat stress can be linked to depressed rumen health. Therefore, optimising rumen function with a gut agility activator can help to reduce the negative impact of heat stress on milk fat and has been proven to be particularly effective, when cows were fed high concentrate diets. Feeding Anco FIT to cows in the hotter months, has been shown to maintain high milk fat and protein yields and low somatic cell counts, indicating that cows with Anco FIT in the diet were able to cope better with the heat, i.e. were more resilient.

Cows love a good on-off sprinkle

Of course, also physical strategies to help reduce heat stress are continuously being evaluated and improved. One of the most effective methods of cooling cows during summer is the use of water sprinklers. When given the choice, cows spend more and more time under sprinklers as the ambient temperature rises. Not having the sprinklers on continuously is more effective in terms of cooling cows, and it also helps to conserve water. The sprinklers should cycle on and off to wet cows and then let them dry off. Cooling is more effective if cows are soaked to the skin during the on time and then evaporative cooling occurs during the off time with fan air. Sprinkler and fan cooling resulted in lower body temperatures and respiration rates, improved dry matter intake and milk yield. However, sprinklers are not recommended in environments where relative humidity could reach over 75% due to the increase in humidity associated with these systems.

More Easter Eggs with Anco FIT Poultry

Need more Easter Eggs? No problem, hens on Anco FIT Poultry are currently producing more eggs for longer than others. This is what recent commercial trials in laying hens, layer breeders and broiler breeders in Brazil and Slovakia are showing.

Adding Anco FIT Poultry to the diets of hens post peak egg production has repeatedly shown to improve laying persistence and hence an increase in the number of eggs over time under commercial conditions. On top of that some farms have also reported reduced mortality in hens.

Ask your local Anco FIT Poultry distributor for more details and how to apply Anco FIT Poultry to diets of laying hens for greater laying persistence.

Learn more about strategies to improve laying persistence and robustness in laying hens

Want to know what we do with Easter Eggs in Austria? Read the fun facts, traditions and recipe below. Happy Easter to everyone, who celebrates it!

Fun facts about Easter Eggs in Austria

Europe’s largest mountain of Easter Eggs

The Easter Market at the old Freyung in Vienna, Austria piles up the largest mountain of painted Easter Eggs in Europe. The pile totals around 40 000 eggs every year.

World’s oldest Easter Egg

The Kramer family in the Austrian state Burgenland is believed to be in the possession of the world’s oldest Easter Egg. In 2019 this hand-scratched Easter Egg is 112 years old.

People in Lower Austria eat 7 eggs at Easter

People in the Austrian state, Lower Austria, where Anco is based, eat around 7 eggs per person around Easter. In total this means 12 million eggs consumed around Easter. (ORF NOE 2018)

Austrian Easter traditions

The main Austrian Easter traditions revolve around eggs.

Decorating eggshells

Decorating eggshells is a long and popular tradition. The decorated eggshells are then hung up with ribbons onto branches in a vase.

Colouring eggs

Coloured hard-boiled eggs are sold in super markets around Easter time. Here the link to a video showing how 30 000 of these Easter eggs are made per hour in Austria. This normally starts in January every year. But many people still make their own at home by boiling the eggs in food colouring.

Video link: Schrall factory in Würmla prepares for Easter 

The company Schrall is based in Würmla, Lower Austria, about 24 minutes by car from the Anco headquarters in Sankt Pölten.

Egg pecking

2 players select a coloured hard-boiled egg each.
They then knock (peck) the eggs with the tip against each other.
The idea is to crack the opponent’s egg while leaving yours unharmed, allowing you to claim the losing egg for yourself.

Recipe – Austrian Easter Egg spread

If you have too many Easter Eggs, there is also a solution, how to make further use of leftover eggs. It is a perfect opportunity to prepare an egg spread, which can also make a tasty Easter dish. Savoury bread spreads are very popular in Austria and are easily prepared. This Easter Egg spread is prepared within 10 min.

Ingredients:
– 5 cooked eggs
– 1/2 small onion
– 3 tablespoons sour cream
– 50 g/ 18,8 oz crème fraîche (with herbs)
– 1 teaspoon chopped chives
– 1/2 teaspoon mustard
– 1/2 teaspoon
– 1/2 teaspoon organic soup powder (for vegetable stock)
– salt
– pepper

Preparation:
Cut eggs into small cubes. Chop the onion very finely. Mix all the ingredients and season with salt and pepper.

 

Strategies for greater robustness and laying persistency in layers

Goals for robustness in birds are being called for to improve animal health and welfare through genetic selection. However, robustness can also be supported by nutritional approaches designed to promote the adaptive capacity of hens. Commercial trials in layer breeding hens have shown that this nutritional strategy leads to improved laying persistency.

Why robustness matters

The combination of breeding for increased production and the intensification of housing conditions for laying hens have not been without consequences. Concerns about animal welfare as well as risks to human health arising from antibiotic-resistant bacteria and disease outbreaks are paving the way to a new research focus and the introduction of robustness or resilience as a desirable trait in animal production.

The concept of robustness includes individual traits of an animal that are relevant for health and welfare. According to Knap 2012 robustness is the ability to combine a high production potential with resilience to stressors. Robustness is based on the possibility to respond adequately to a stressor and is aiming at less disturbed functioning if challenged with a stressor. This leads to a competitive advantage, because maladaptation due to stressors can have negative impacts on animal behavior, metabolism and immunology. Hence, why robustness is rapidly gaining importance in animal production.

The main characteristics important for robustness of production animals are productivity and the capacity to adapt in a wide variety of conditions. Differences in conditions can be due to climate, housing facilities, disease pressure, exposure to pathogens and differences in feed quality and composition. In this context adaptation can be described as a mechanism of the animal that empowers it to cope with internal or external disturbances, stressors or with changes in the environment.

According to a research group at Wageningen University a multi-disciplinary approach is crucial to reveal the determinants of adaptive capacity in farm animals. Adaptive capacity is determined by the genetic background of the bird. However, expression of adaptive capacity and therefore robustness can be supported or inhibited by the actual conditions the birds live in (e.g. nutritional status, social environment, disease pressure, etc.).

Breeding for robustness

Research findings have indicated that an animal’s welfare is dependent on its genetic characteristics, environmental factors and genetic-environmental interactions. This means an animal has the capacity to adapt to its environment. Breeding programs that ensure that animal well-being will improve, while at the same time improving production traits, are multi-level and multi-trait selection, directed at improving associative effects.

Research also showed that group selection increases robustness as indicated by the overall greater ability to cope with stressors. For instance, group selected laying hens had a lower mortality in response to heat exposure in multiple-hen cages compared to the control. This suggests that group selection can be an effective method to increase robustness in laying hens.

Genomic selection, based on dense genetic markers, will allow for more rapid improvement of traits that are expensive or more difficult to measure, or have a low heritability such as pecking, disease resistance, robustness and bone strength.

Feeding for robustness

Effective implementation of robustness into a breeding goal requires large scale genetic research, which for most traits is labour intensive and expensive. Therefore, finding additional ways of improving the adaptive capacity of birds, could speed up the process of reaching the goal for robustness in birds. New nutritional concepts, such as a gut agility activators, are designed to support the adaptive capacity and hence robustness of the bird by nutritional means. They help the bird to adapt to nutritional challenges by minimizing stress reactions such as oxidative stress and reduced feed intake, that would otherwise impact performance, health and wellbeing of the bird. Heat stress, high stocking density and mycotoxins are known factors which normally lead to increased oxidative stress and a reduction in feed intake.

Agile birds ahead in laying persistency

Longer laying cycles can help to cut costs, so they are imperative 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. Benefits of genetic selection for improved laying persistence and stability in egg quality can only be realized if they are matched by improvements in hen nutrition. Poor bird health and environmental stress affect egg formation and the ability of the hen to maintain persistency. This can be aggravated by nutritional stressors in the diet, such as dietary changes, reduced nutrient digestibility, endotoxins, antinutritional factors and mycotoxins. Managing the resilience in birds to those stressors by nutritional means can help to support a better laying persistency.

Adding a gut agility activator, designed to minimize common stress reactions in birds, to the diet of a commercial parent layer flock has been shown to improve laying persistency in the late laying period. This indicates that supporting the adaptive capacity or agility of birds with a gut agility activator improves the chance to maintain laying persistency for longer.

More rapid progress anticipated

So far it has been difficult to quantify robustness directly. However, measurements from wearable sensors and other sources together with the emergence of novel analytical tools may become a game changer for measuring robustness. The livestock industry is already taking advantage of wearable sensors with multiple uses ranging from stress detection, behavior analysis, physiological monitoring and detecting health and disease status of animals.

A barrier to wearable sensors in the poultry industry is the number of birds that are managed on large poultry operations, as fitting every bird with sensory devices is impracticable. Despite this fact, fitting a proportion of the flock with sensors is possible, and the data generated from these birds can be used to assess total flock health.

These tools are likely to enable rapid progress for the management of robustness in farm animals and may also invite rethinking of how we can support and increase the adaptive capacity of laying hens.

Gwendolyn Jones, Published in International Hatchery Practice, Positive Action Publications 2019