Resilience – economic value in animal production

Animal breeding is showing an increasing appetite for resilience to be included as a trait in breeding goals. Scientists working in animal genetics are pointing out the economic value of resilience on farms, where labour time is restricted.

Resilience genes in redheads

Researchers are discovering what makes some humans more resilient than others. For instance, the MC1R gene found in human redheads has been associated with certain characteristics that improve resilience. Redheads have the genetic advantage that they naturally produce their own vitamin D. Most other people need to make sure that they consume plenty of vitamin D, especially when modern lifestyles and weather prevent them from obtaining enough vitamin D from sunlight. Since vitamin D plays an important role in health and fertility, redheads are more resilient because they need less vitamin D than the rest of us.

Better characterisation of resilient phenotypes in farm animals should provide the opportunity to look for similar gene differences in these species.

Can we breed for resilience?

Current developments and future trends in the livestock industry are giving way to a new research focus in genetics for livestock production. This research is looking to develop selection tools for farmers to improve the resilience of animals in their production system.

So far  breeding goals have not included resilience. However, research groups from Australia and the Netherlands have recently demonstrated the potential for resilience in breeding goals and suggested ways of how we could genetically select for it in livestock animals.

Resilience definition in animal production

“The capacity of the animal to be minimally affected by disturbances/challenges or to rapidly return to the state pertained before exposure to a disturbance” (Berghof et al 2019).

Colditz and Hine (2016) describe resilience as a comparative measure of differences between animals in the impact of a challenge and the result of lower sensitivity or better adaptability to a challenge. The biological processes underlying resilience relate to adaptive responses that occur to minimize the impact of a stressor.

How to measure resilience in farm animals

From the definition of resilience as reduced sensitivity to potential disturbances, it follows that the desirable phenotype could be identified by measuring the rate of recovery to baseline and normality of behavioural, physiological, immune or production traits following the disturbance. Instead of measuring the magnitude of these variables while the animal attempts to cope with the stressor.

More recent scientific papers say resilience can be measured based on deviations of expected production and observed production over a period of time. One indicator for more resilient animals could be that they have a smaller variance in deviations of production traits over a period of time than the population average.

For example, there are favorable correlations between the residual variance of feed intake and feed duration with mortality and the number of health treatments in pigs in a challenge environment. This suggests that residual variance of feed intake and feed duration can be used to select for more resilient pigs.

Recent technological advances facilitate the increase in the number of observations that can be made on individual animals to more accurately estimate deviations and consequently genetic parameters. Routine data collection form automatic milking systems (AMS) and automatic feeding systems (AFS) for cattle and pigs are the most well-known and well-developed examples. Animal breeders expect more rapid progress with measurements from wearable sensors, which are already being used for monitoring animal behaviour, physiological changes and detecting health and disease status in animals.

Economic value of resilience

Researchers point out that when determining the economic value of traits, care needs to be taken to avoid double counting. They suggest that the economic value of resilience can be based on labour costs associated with observing animals that show signs of disease or other problems. These could be visual signs or alerts generated by sensors, automatic feeding systems or automatic milking systems.

Labour time is limited. Therefore, farmers have a requirement for healthy and easy-to-manage animals, especially when the number of animals per farm employee is increasing. A reduction in time spent on an animal with an alert will reduce costs associated with labour. Improved resilience results in easier to manage farm animals, which would reduce labour requirements and thus allow more animals per farm. Consequently, selecting for more resilient animals can increase farm profit.

Progressive Dairyman: How to support dairy cows in their defense against DON

New technical article from Anco published by the Progressive Dairyman.

High producing dairy cows are more susceptible to negative impact from stressors in their feed and in their environment. But what matters for performance and efficiency is how the cows respond. Feeding the right natural bioactive substances can help the animal adapt its response in a way that helps maintain milk quality and component yields. This article focuses on how to adapt to the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) for milk profits.

Link to full article: Taking the sting out of DON for milk profits

Further reading

Effects of oxidative stress in response to mycotoxins in dairy cows

Diets that keep your cows agile for high milk quality

 

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

The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of administration level of a dietary phytogenic premix (PP) characterized by carvacrol and thymol (Anco FIT – Poultry) on the gene expression profile of antioxidant enzymes (i.e. CAT, SOD, GPX2, GPX7) and transcription factor Nrf2 at intestinal level. In addition, broiler liver and meat lipid oxidation and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) were determined.

Depending on PP inclusion level (0, 750, 1000 and 2000 mg/kg diet) in a three stage feeding program formulated to meet Cobb 500 nutritional requirements, treatments were: PP-0, P-750, PP-1000 and PP-2000. Feed and water were available ad libitum. Each one of the 4 treatments had 125 broilers arranged in 5 replicates of 25 chickens each. At 42d, 2 birds per treatment replicate were analyzed for gene expression and 4 birds per treatment replicate were pooled for biochemical analyses.

Data were analyzed by ANOVA, taking the treatment as fixed effect. Statistical significant effects (P≤0.05) were further analyzed and means were compared using Tukey HSD test. In addition, polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels.

Gene expression of SOD was up-regulated in the duodenum (P=0.027), jejunum (P=0.026) and ceca (P=0.023) in PP-1000 and PP-750 compared to PP-0. Expression of GPX2 was up-regulated in the duodenum (P=0.032) and jejunum (P=0.013) in PP-1000 and in ceca (P=0.006) in PP-2000 compared to PP-0, respectively. In addition, Nrf2 was up-regulated in ceca (P=0.024) in PP-1000 compared to PP-0. Intestinal mucosa TAC was higher in duodenum (P=0.011) and ceca (P=0.050) in PP-1000 compared to PP-0.

Lipid oxidation was delayed in a linear pattern with increasing PP inclusion level in breast (PL=0.020) and liver (PL=0.046). Moreover, the PP inclusion level resulted in higher breast (P=0.005), thigh (P=0.002) and liver (P=0.040) TAC. In particular, breast and thigh TAC increased in a quadratic pattern reaching plateau at PP-1000, whereas liver TAC continued to increase linearly.

Conclusion

Overall, a consistent PP inclusion effect on meat, liver and intestinal antioxidant capacity has been shown with PP-1000 being the most effective.

Authors

Konstantinos C. Mountzouris, Vasileios Paraskeuas, Eirini Griela, George Papadomichelakis and Konstantinos Fegeros

Department of Nutritional Physiology and Feeding, Agricultural University of Athens, 118 55 Athens, Greece

Presented at the EPC 2018 in Dubrovnik, September 2018

Effects of oxidative stress in response to mycotoxins in dairy cows

Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are normally neutralized by sufficient antioxidant levels in the cow. However, an imbalance between the production of ROS and defense ability of the cow to neutralize ROS causes oxidative stress.

Diseases that can cause significant economic losses in dairy herds, such as subclinical mastitis and ketosis, have been associated with increased markers of oxidative stress in the milk. For example, dairy cows with higher levels of somatic cell counts in milk also showed more signs of oxidative stress, as indicated by levels of malondialdehyde and dinitrophenylhydrazine.

Mycotoxins are known to increase oxidative stress. Therefore, they are also a factor, which can predispose dairy cows to subclinical mastitis and ketosis.

As cases of subclinical mastitis in dairy cows can cost on average $110/cow/year and ketosis $150/cow/year, mycotoxins can be a culprit in significant economic losses in dairy herds.

References

Mostert et al 2018. Estimating the economic impact of subclinical ketosis in dairy
cattle using a dynamic stochastic simulation model, Animal, p 145-154

Ruegg 2005. Premiums, Production and Pails of Discarded Milk How Much Money Does
Mastitis Cost You? University of Wisconsin

Abuelo et al 2015 The importance of the oxidative status of dairy cattle in the periparturient period: revisiting antioxidant supplementation 

Santos and Fink-Gremmels 2014. Mycotoxin syndrome in dairy cattle: characterization and intervention results

Andrei et al 2016. Interrelationships between the content of oxidative markers, antioxidative status, and somatic cell count in cow’s milk. Czech J. Anim. Sci., 61, 2016 (9): 407–413

Watch a short video about this topic at the end of the Monday mycotoxin report below

Laying persistency – 500 eggs in a single laying cycle in 100 weeks

Laying persistency is a major trait currently being developed further in laying hens. The “long life” layer, which will be capable of producing 500 eggs in a laying cycle of 100 weeks, is on the horizon.

In Europe, the priority is to increase egg production by breeding for increased persistency in lay and stability in egg quality so that the laying cycle of commercial flocks can be extended to 90–100 weeks. Breeding programs are particularly focusing on improving laying persistency and egg quality at the end of the laying cycle.

Reducing cost of egg production

Economic reasons play an important role in taking this decision. It means less feed is required per egg. Keeping the birds longer will decrease the financial contribution of the 18-week-old pullet to the cost per table egg. Maintaining egg size and quality beyond 75 weeks and up to a target of 100 weeks can have a big impact on the profitability of a flock. The time required to reach the economic break-even of the hen has increased from 34 weeks in 1998 to 52 weeks in 2016. This indicates that longer production cycles are imperative in a tough economic climate.

More sustainable egg production

Longer laying cycles lead to a lower carbon footprint per egg. Furthermore, it was calculated that around 1 g of nitrogen could be saved per dozen eggs for an increase of 10 weeks in production. This can significantly reduce the nitrification impact of increasing or maintaining production, which is especially important in nitrate sensitive areas.

More efficient use of resources and reduction of waste will help to reduce the environmental impact of egg production and preserve the environment.

First commercial flock achieving 500 eggs in 100 weeks

Free range laying systems are following the trend for longer laying periods. The case for extending free-range laying cycles.

Actually, the first commercial flock achieving 500 eggs in 100 weeks, was a free-range laying flock and was reported in June 2018. It involved a 40 000 Dekalb White flock based in Germany. A key success factor in this was that the farmer likes to learn new things.

How to get to 500 eggs in 100 weeks

A decline in egg numbers combined with a deterioration in shell quality are the main reasons for currently replacing flocks at or around 72 weeks of age.

The benefits of genetic selection for improved persistency in lay and stability in egg quality can only be realized if they are matched by improvements in hen nutrition and careful monitoring of the effects of this process on the health and welfare of the hens.

To extend the laying cycle of commercial flocks, long-term maintenance of the tissues and organs involved in producing eggs is required.

Motivational video for 500 eggs in 100 weeks

Nutrition supporting laying persistency

Genetic progress and longer production cycles have consequences for nutrition. Benefits of genetic selection for improved laying persistency and stability in egg quality can only be realized if they are matched by improvements in hen nutrition. There are three important areas that come to mind, when it comes to supporting laying persistence by nutritional means:

1) Careful management of feed/nutrient intake around start of lay and in early laying period

2) Maintaining organs that are important for egg production healthy, e.g. liver

3) Minimizing common stress reactions such as oxidative stress, inflammatory responses and reduction in feed intake to maintain birds healthy and efficient

Supporting birds to keep a positive nutrient balance in the first 10 weeks of lay will help provide a reserve for mid/late lay egg output and improved shell quality.

With older birds it is important to maintain liver health. Consider supporting liver function with relevant additives, such as choline and vitamin E. Adding certain plant extracts to diets has been shown to improve the antioxidant status in laying hens and can be used to prevent oxidative stress. This then also has the potential to prevent fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome (FLHS).

Managing nutritional stressors

Monitoring mycotoxins in feed also plays a key role for liver health in layers, as mycotoxins will cause oxidative stress and damage to the liver. Laying hens are more sensitive than other poultry to mycotoxins. A longer life makes laying hens ideal candidates for chronic mycotoxicosis, caused by continuous exposure to low levels of toxins.

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.

Nutritional concepts designed to support gut agility, increase the bird’s capacity to adapt to nutritional challenges and live up to its performance potential, particularly under situations of increased stress. Overall, they are a sustainable alternative to help reduce the use of antibiotics in poultry diets, whilst maintaining robust and efficient birds for consistency in the cost-effectiveness of diets at high performance levels.

Adding a product including phytogenic components with antioxidative power and designed for gut agility to the late laying period of a commercial ISA Brown parent layer flock, improved the persistency in lay compared to birds on a control diet.

Recommendations from breeding companies

Feeding laying hens to 100 weeks of age – Lohmann

How to feed layers for a longer production cycle and high performance – Dekalb

Progress in Layer Genetics Longer production cycles, a genetic perspective – ISA

Trailer video for new ANCO Article: Keep your cows agile

View the video trailer below for a new article by Gwendolyn Jones, Anco Animal Nutrition Competence.

Responsive and adaptive technologies are leading the development for increased agility in how we and machines are operating today. Imagine a world where dairy cows can adapt to challenges and stressors for more consistent and efficient production of high milk solid yields and milk quality.

Read the full article:” Diets that keep your cows agile for high milk quality” here,  published in International Dairy Topics by Positive Action, March 2018 issue.

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

The inclusion level of a phytogenic premix (PP) (Anco FIT  Poultry) was studied for its effects on broiler growth performance, nutrient digestibility and total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of meat and liver. In addition, gene expression of antioxidant enzymes CAT, SOD and GPx was profiled along the broiler intestine.

A total of 500 one-day-old Cobb broiler chickens were assigned into 4 treatments, with 5 replicates of 25 chickens each. Basal diets were formulated to meet starter (1 to 10d), grower (11 to 22d) and finisher (23 to 42d) growth phase requirements. Depending on PP inclusion level (0, 750, 1000 and 2000 mg/kg diet), treatments were: PP-0, P-750, PP-1000 and PP-2000. Feed and water were available ad libitum.
Data were analyzed by ANOVA, taking the treatment as fixed effect. Statistical significant effects (P≤0.05) were further analyzed and means were compared using Tukey HSD test. In addition, polynomial contrasts tested the linear and quadratic effect of PP inclusion levels.

Growth performance responses did not differ (P>0.05) between treatments. However, there was a trend (P=0.089) for improved FCR by 4.5% in PP-1000 compared to PP-0 at the finisher phase. In addition, trends for improved European production efficiency index were seen for PP-1000 during the finisher phase (P=0.087) and overall (P=0.057). Treatment PP-1000 had the highest carcass (P=0.030) and breast fillet yield (P=0.023). From the digestibility study, PP-1000 had higher AMEn (P=0.049) compared to treatments PP-2000 and PP-0.

The PP inclusion level resulted in higher breast (P=0.005), thigh (P=0.002) and liver (P=0.040) TAC. In particular, breast and thigh TAC increased in a quadratic pattern and reached plateu at PP-1000, whereas liver TAC continued to increase linearly. Gene expression of SOD was significantly up-regulated in the duodenum (P=0.027), jejunum (P=0.026) and ceca (P=0.023) in PP-1000 and PP-750 compared to PP-0. In ceca, CAT expression displayed a quadratic pattern of up-regulation (Pq=0.053) in the same direction with SOD (Pq=0.006).

Overall, this study provides evidence for potential PP-1000 benefits for carcass and breast fillet yield, energy sparing and overall antioxidant capacity in broiler gut and meat.

Researchers of this study

published in the proceedings of the scientific forum IPPE 2018

Konstantinos C. Mountzouris*, Vasileios Paraskeuas*, Eirini Griela*, Andreas Kern# and Konstantinos Fegeros*
*Department of Nutritional Physiology and Feeding, Agricultural University of Athens, 118 55 Athens, Greece
#Anco Animal Nutrition Competence GmbH, Linzer Strasse 55, 3100 Sankt Poelten, Austria

One additional incentive for proper silage management

There are many factors mentioned in textbooks, which you can control to maximize the quality of your corn silage with proper silage management. The timing and conditions at harvesting corn silage as well as minimizing the exposure of silage to oxygen during storage to avoid spoilage are crucial to for the nutritional value of the silage to the dairy cow.

What the textbooks don’t tell you is that a lot of those factors can also contribute to the formation of mycotoxins if not practiced properly. Mycotoxins are produced under favourable conditions by certain types of moulds. However, the hidden danger can be that mycotoxins are present without clear visual signs of mould in the silage.

Quality of 2017 corn silage

Read about what you should know about 2017 corn silage here.

Symptoms for a mycotoxin challenge

Typical symptoms of a mycotoxin challenge in a dairy herd are:
• decreased feed intake,
• reduced milk and milk component yields,
• increase in somatic cell counts
• reduced reproductive performance, including decreased conception rates, increase in irregular heats and ovarian cysts.
• increased incidences of metabolic disorders such as ketosis, retained placentas, displaced abomasum

Providing those symptoms cannot be explained by other nutritional or management short-comings on the farm, the cause are most likely mycotoxins in the feed ration.

Economic impact

Subclinical mycotoxicoses decrease profitability by lowering milk production and quality while increasing expenses from inappropriate veterinary therapies.

So, the risk of mycotoxins is one more incentive for best practice at harvesting and storing corn silage.

Mycotoxins produced in corn silage

Mycotoxins can already accumulate in the crop prior to silage making during growth of the corn on the field and often will not be visible. This level of toxin can then continue to increase during poor harvest conditions and on into storage. The primary toxin producing fungi on corn in the field includes Fusarium.

Several mycotoxins of concern are produced by Fusarium and include:

deoxynivalenol (DON),

zearalenone

and T-2 toxin.

Zearalenone is a mycotoxin, which can cause fertility problems after its ingestion due to its structure being very similar to the hormone oestrogen. DON can have a negative impact on rumen efficiency and hence on milk solid yields. Read more about DON in dairy cows in the following link  How cows can adapt to DON

Frost increases risk of mycotoxins in silage

Corn silage harvested after frost is at even greater risk of toxin contamination. When the corn is chopped and placed in a silo, the frosted and now drier silage is difficult to pack properly. The oxygen level in the silo takes longer to deplete during tilling and the fungus can continue to grow and produce toxin for several days.

Mycotoxins in grass silage

Mycotoxins, such as zearalenone, have also been found in grass silage, however the levels are generally much lower than on corn silage (Driehus et al 2009)

 

Managing the risk of mycotoxins in silage

Pre-harvest events

While silage-making practices impact fungi and mycotoxin levels, environmental conditions likely have the largest impact Environmental conditions, such as excessive moisture, temperature extremes, drought conditions, insect damage, crop systems and some agronomic practices, can cause stress and predispose plants in the field to mould and determine the severity of mycotoxin contamination.

Despite progress made in prevention through breeding of resistant varieties and improvement in agronomic practices hazardous concentrations of mycotoxins may occur as a result of annual weather fluctuations.

Post-harvest management

Excellent silage management can reduce the incidence of mycotoxins. Prevention of mycotoxins in silage includes following accepted silage making practices aimed at preventing deterioration, primarily by quickly reducing pH and the elimination of oxygen (Figure 1 below). This decreases the growth of moulds and mycotoxin contamination.

Figure 1 The 3 major events that make good silage and factors that can affect silage fermentation
(Kung 2000, Tangni et al 2013)

silage management - anco

DM content

DM content of the forage can have major effects on the ensiling process via a number of different mechanisms.
1) Drier silages do not pack well and thus it is difficult to exclude all of the oxygen from the forage mass during the confection of the silo.

2) As the DM content increases, growth of lactic acid bacteria is inhibited and the rate and extent of fermentation is reduced.

3) If the forage is too moist and pH decline is not sufficient, clostridia, which ferment lactic to butyric acid and amino acids to ammonia, might become active. This process results in increases in pH and losses of silage DM content.

Rapid feed-out

When the silo is opened for feeding, oxygen becomes available to the front of the mass and the activity of the yeasts and molds, as a result of survival of fungal spores or a re-colonization of these microorganisms, could reduce aerobic stability of ensiled mass, thus favoring potentially toxigenic fungi development. Silo size should be matched to herd size to ensure daily removal of silage at a rate faster than deterioration. In warm weather, it is best to remove a foot of silage daily from the feeding face. The feeding face of silos should be cleanly cut and disturbed as little as possible to prevent aeration into the silage mass. Silage (or other wet feeds) should be fed immediately after removal from storage. Spoilage should not be fed and feed bunks should be cleaned regularly.

Silage Inoculants

As part of the best ensiling practices the use of an appropriate silage inoculant, depending on various conditions, should be considered.

Regular monitoring
Monitoring the forage quality during the preservation process is the only real way to assess the given situation.

 

References

Cheli et al 2013. Fungal populations and mycotoxins in silages: From occurrence to analysis 

Driehuis et al 2009. Occurrence of mycotoxins in maize, grass and wheat silage for dairy cattle in the 

Gallo et al 2015. Review on Mycotoxin Issues in Ruminants: Occurrence in Forages, Effects of Mycotoxin Ingestion on Health Status and Animal Performance and Practical Strategies to Counteract Their Negative Effects

Tangni E. K., Pussemier L. and Van Hove F. 2013, Mycotoxin Contaminating Maize and Grass Silages for Dairy Cattle Feeding: Current State and Challenges, J Anim Sci Adv 2013, 3(10): 492-511

 

2017 Corn silage: 3 things you should know

Corn silage for both beef and dairy fluctuates between 8-10% of the total corn acres in the US: This year’s corn silage can be expected not to be typical, due to challenging weather conditions that prevailed across different states in 2017.

High variability in quality. Depending on the state, severe drought, heat stress or wet conditions will have a great impact on the quality of 2017 corn silage

Extra sampling is recommended. Due to high variability in the quality of corn silage, producers need to take extra samples after fermentation to track quality levels and the amounts of digestible starch (target for starch content over 30 percent), 30-hour neutral detergent fiber digestibility (target over 55 percent) and 30-hour undigested neutral detergent fiber (target under 45 percent).

In addition to testing for quality and starch, tests should also include mycotoxin analysis due to the higher risk of contamination in 2017 corn silage. Testing results can help when building plans to optimize the crop and the ration.

Check out this video for tips on how to prepare a representative silage sample.

Video on preparing representative silage samples

High levels of mycotoxins have already been reported in 2017 corn in several states in the US. DON levels > 5ppm have been reported in South Dakota, Nebraska, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania corn, whereas aflatoxin levels greater than 100ppb have been reported in Georgia, Texas, North Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma. According to the 2003 USDA Crop Production Report, the top ten corn silage producing states are: WI, NY, CA, PA, MN, IA, SD, NE and ID.

For an update on Mycotoxins in 2017 crops and technical information on how cows adapt to DON please watch the video below.

 

Reports of DON contamination in US 2017 corn are increasing

As corn harvest advances in the US, reports show that the amount of corn in poor to very poor condition is well over that of last year. Also, high levels of DON are reported in corn in several states.

Minnesota, Pennsylvania have reported DON levels of greater than 1 ppm in corn silage, whereas levels of DON in corn silage in Iowa were greater than 2ppm