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Articles from 2015 In May

What's your health worth?

What's your health worth?

AMERICANS have a lot of priorities to juggle: They want to be healthy but sometimes find it hard to fit health-related behaviors into a busy schedule or to invest money into preventive health care.

Combine that with conflicting health and nutrition advice or negative headlines in the media, and it is easy to become overwhelmed.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation's 2015 "Food & Health Survey" delves into the trade-offs Americans make regarding health and nutrition on an everyday basis. Findings show that a diverse set of factors — health status, gender, income, education and age — influence Americans' priorities regarding health, food and nutrition.

Food and health are topics that Americans clearly care deeply about, the report explains. In the past year, nearly everyone has thought about the healthfulness of their diet (91%) and the amount of physical activity they get (94%), and half of all Americans have given these subjects a lot of thought. In addition, the vast majority (84%) are actively trying to maintain or lose weight.

Nonetheless, only a quarter (24%) try to have a great deal of control over the healthfulness of their diet. By comparison, 41% try to have a great deal of control over their happiness. Interestingly, the number of people taking control of their diet, weight and physical activity has decreased about 10 percentage points in two years.


Perception vs. reality

According to the survey, 57% of Americans rate their own health as very good or excellent, yet 55% of that group is either overweight or obese.

"What I fear is that we've reset the bar in that some people actually don't know what feeling good is like, but they think they feel pretty good. So, we've almost lowered the bar in defining what good health is," said Dr. Jim Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health & Wellness Center at the University of Colorado.

In addition to trying to maintain or lose weight, consumers also report efforts to choose more healthful options in their lives, with 82% trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, 76% cutting calories by drinking water or low- or no-calorie beverages, 70% eating more foods with whole grains, 69% cutting back on foods that contain more added sugars and 68% consuming smaller portions.

When asked to rate the most effective weight management strategies, changing the types of foods they eat topped the list, at 51% of participants, followed by making sure to get enough physical activity, at 50%.


Competing priorities

While 37% of Americans cite lack of willpower as the biggest barrier to losing weight or maintaining their weight, 31% cite lack of time.

Nearly half of men spend more time following their favorite sport or team (46%) than tracking their diet, while women chose tracking their diet over sports 51% to 17%. Only a quarter spend more time tracking their diet (27%), and the remaining 27% spend no time on tracking either sports or their diet.

If people suddenly were given an extra four hours a week, exercise is the top activity (36%) on which Americans say they would spend the time, followed by spending it with friends and family (31%), relaxing or sleeping (29%), doing household chores or tasks (20%), reading (20%) or practicing a hobby (20%).

Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice president of nutrition and food safety for the IFIC Foundation, said only 11% would spend more time cooking or baking.

Consumers already spend limited time on preparing an average meal. She noted that less than 20% of people spend fewer than 15 minutes preparing dinner on an average weekday. However, there is a significant cultural influence as greater numbers of Hispanics and African Americans spend more than an hour preparing a meal.

When asked how much time they spend preparing dinner on a given day, 19% reported fewer than 15 minutes, while 52% spend between 15 and 44 minutes and 29% spend 45 minutes or more on dinner preparation.

Smith Edge noted that those who already spend more time cooking and preparing dinner are more likely to spend time on food- and diet-related activities. Those who spend fewer than 15 minutes would more likely watch more television if given more time each day (Figure 1).

When asked whether they would rather lose $1,000 or gain 20 lb., 56% said they would rather lose the money — the same number as last year. However, there is also a gender gap, with 50% of men and 61% of women choosing to lose the money over gaining the weight.


Economic divide

If Americans had an additional $100 per month, three out of five (61%) say they would save, invest or pay off debts, with all other financial priorities trailing behind: household expenses or home repairs (28%), travel (23%), shopping for anything other than groceries (17%), entertainment (13%) and groceries (13%).

Higher-income consumers are more likely to buy foods based on their production or source (e.g., locally sourced, no added hormones or steroids, organic) and are more likely to report avoiding many specific food components and ingredients.

Half of Americans (51%) acknowledge that foods would cost more if processed foods were hypothetically removed from the food supply, with 45% also saying food would become less convenient. While 43% believe the impact of removing processed foods would be improved health or nutrition, higher-income consumers are more likely to answer that way.

Lower-income Americans are most concerned about the cost impacts if processed foods were removed from the food supply, and they also are most likely to buy groceries if given an additional $100 a month (Figure 2).

"Findings show that a minority consisting of higher-income Americans and those in better health seem willing to pay more for organic and locally sourced foods that claim environmental, safety and health benefits, despite lack of evidence that these benefits truly deliver," Smith Edge said.

"The potential impact on lower-income Americans is to create doubt about the healthfulness of conventionally or typically available food, adding additional stress and guilt to buying foods that can provide nutritious benefits for everyone," she concluded.

What's your health worth?

Volume:87 Issue:21

Walmart details animal care stance

Walmart details animal care stance

WALMART U.S. and Sam's Club U.S. announced May 22 new positions regarding animal welfare and the use of antibiotics in farm animals as a next step in continuously improving the sustainability of items it sells.

"Walmart is committed to selling products that sustain people and the environment," said Kathleen McLaughlin, president of the Walmart Foundation and senior vice president of Walmart sustainability. "We have listened to our customers and are asking our suppliers to engage in improved reporting standards and transparency measures regarding the treatment of farm animals."

Walmart said it believes animals should be treated humanely and that it will not tolerate abuse. Additionally, the company announced that it supports the globally recognized "Five Freedoms" of animal welfare and is committed to working with supply chain partners to implement practices consistent with the Five Freedoms.

Moving forward, Walmart is asking suppliers to:

* Report and take disciplinary and corrective action in cases of animal abuse;

* Find and implement solutions to address animal welfare concerns in housing systems, for painful procedures and for euthanasia or slaughter, and

* Promote transparency by providing progress reports to Walmart and publicly reporting corporate animal welfare positions on an annual basis.

Walmart also outlined its new policy for the use of antibiotics in farm animals, which it stated should be used "responsibly." The company is asking suppliers to:

* Adopt and implement the American Veterinary Medical Assn.'s judicious use principles of antimicrobial use, including accurate recordkeeping, veterinary oversight and limiting antimicrobial treatment to animals that are ill or at risk;

* Adopt and implement the Food & Drug Administration's "Voluntary Guidance for Industry 209" in their own operations and their industry producer programs, including by eliminating growth promotion uses of medically important antibiotics, and

* Promote transparency by providing a report on antibiotic management to Walmart and by publicly reporting antibiotic use on an annual basis.

In October 2014, Walmart announced its commitment to a sustainable food system, outlining four key pillars to reach this goal: (1) improving the affordability of food for both customers and the environment, (2) increasing access to food, (3) making healthier eating easier and (4) improving the safety and transparency of the food chain.

"Our customers want to know more about how their food is grown and raised and where it comes from. As the nation's largest grocer, Walmart is committed to using our strengths to drive transparency and improvement across the supply chain," McLaughlin said. "We believe it's important to promote transparency in this process, helping to put our customers in charge of their food choices by providing clear, accurate information about food ingredients. We appreciate the leadership our suppliers have shown to help us accomplish these goals."

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) as well as Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, applauded Walmart's announcement.

"By using antibiotics responsibly and providing humane and compassionate care for their animals, pork producers ensure animal health and well-being and a safe, wholesome food supply," NPPC president Dr. Ron Prestage, a veterinarian and pork producer, said in a statement. "Walmart's recognition of that proves that America's farmers, not extreme animal activist groups, should be setting food policy."

Prestage said America's hog farmers are committed to using industry practices that have been designed with input from veterinarians and other animal care experts to provide humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life.

Smithfield said its company-owned farms are already compliant with Walmart's newly announced policies and encouraged the rest of the industry to develop programs consistent with these guidelines.

Smithfield ceased using human-grade antibiotics for growth promotion in its pigs more than two years ago and, in 2007, was the first pork producer to announce that it would transition pregnant sows to group housing in its U.S. operations.

"We understand that potential antibiotic resistance is a public health concern, and that's why we are leading the pork industry in ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics within our operations," said C. Larry Pope, Smithfield president and chief executive officer.

Pope said the company has accepted its role as the largest pork producer by leading the charge to address challenging issues the industry faces in meeting the changing needs and demands of its customers and consumers.

Volume:87 Issue:21

SCID pig could test human therapies

SCID pig could test human therapies

A GRANT of $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health will fund Iowa State University research to develop a line of pigs with an immune system that is uniquely suited to testing medical therapies for people.

Four years ago, in work that originated at Iowa State, scientists identified the first pigs with naturally occurring severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Until this discovery, the inherited disorder was only known to naturally affect people, mice, horses and dogs.

Those born with SCID have an incomplete immune system that cannot adapt to pathogens. In the 1970s, a famous case was a young boy, known as the "bubble boy," who suffered from the disorder and had to live in a sterile room to avoid germs.

"The pig is known to be an excellent model for human biology due to its similar size, physiology and genetic makeup, and this novel SCID pig model has been successfully engrafted with multiple human cancer cell lines. This shows it has high potential as a model for many areas of testing in regenerative medicine, a new medical specialty that repairs disease instead of treating symptoms," said Christopher Tuggle, an Iowa State professor of animal science who will lead the research project.

Tuggle said researchers familiar with Iowa State's discovery have made several inquiries about the pig, and their research areas span many facets of regenerative medicine — from cardiac injury therapies to cartilage regeneration studies to the use of stem cells for bone regeneration and wound repair to improving the treatment of graft versus host disease in bone marrow transplants.

The SCID discovery arose from a feed efficiency study on pigs led by Iowa State animal scientist Jack Dekkers. This was a priority project for the pork industry because of the high cost of feed.

As part of a collaborative study with Kansas State University, the pigs were exposed to a virus to determine if their feed-efficient status affected their immune response, and some were found to have severely affected immune organs.

"In the SCID pig, you have a biological 'empty vessel' that does not reject a pathogen or foreign cell," Tuggle said. "It could be used to test if a therapeutic cell derived from stem cells can repair damaged tissue before you start clinical trials. You also can directly test whether new drugs can kill implanted cancer cells in an organism very similar to a human cancer patient."

Tuggle also said scientists can transplant human bone marrow cells into the SCID pigs in the same way researchers have done with SCID mice and attempt to create pigs with an immune system similar to people. Such pigs could be used to test vaccines for human pathogens like HIV or virulent influenza, he said.

These pig models would have many advantages over mice used in such research, he added, because immune cells and immune protein sequences in the pig are more like those in people.

Tuggle, who also serves as the National Swine Genome coordinator, said the SCID pig remains a valuable model to the livestock industry and can be used to study immune response to diseases that are important to the swine industry, such as porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome and influenza.

Volume:87 Issue:21

Pork Education Center opens at Fair Oaks

Pork Education Center opens at Fair Oaks

THE 7,000 sq. ft. Pork Education Center, built directly to the west of the Fair Oaks Farms birthing barn on the farm's main campus in Fair Oaks, Ind., is now open to the public.

The $4.5 million center complements The Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks in that the Pig Adventure showcases the production side of the pig industry, while the new Pork Education Center showcases the finished product side, with a focus on pig and pork education.

Fair Oaks Farms broke ground on the Pork Education Center in May 2014. The official public opening bash is planned for June 28 with the Sizzling Days of Bacon festival.

Main features of the new center are a sky trail ropes course that reveals pig factoids as visitors progress and reach higher levels, a custom-built treehouse from the team at Animal Planet's Redwood Kings and various other pig- and pork-related attractions. The center also serves as the boarding area for The Pig Adventure bus tours.

"Responsible, sustainable pork production is a key part of the message in this center," said Jon Hoek, a member of the board that helped guide and craft the pig centers.

The Pork Education Center focuses on food uses and non-food uses alike. "It showcases what pigs do for people," Hoek said, noting that it includes information on the nutritional value of pork and how the pig is important from a medical standpoint.

While the centers are geared toward consumers, Hoek encourages industry leaders to come spend a day or two just being "a fly on the wall." He said consumers' concerns are not what they are generally assumed to be: "Things we thought would be problematic with consumers aren't."

For instance, Hoek said visitors will stand and watch two sows fight and find it funny, but when the back of a sow is gently tapped with a welfare-friendly rattle paddle, they get concerned by what they perceive to be happening.

The Pork Education Center, much like the Pig Adventure, provides the opportunity to talk about the issues and to answer people's questions — something Hoek firmly believes is important to helping grow consumer understanding and acceptance of the industry.

At the height of tourism season, Hoek said some 1,500-2,000 visitors a day come to view all aspects of modern pig farming.

Later this year, the pig centers at Fair Oaks will be part of an Animal Planet episode that the Redwood Kings shot on site during installation of the treehouse they designed. The segment goes into the barn, where they learned all about pigs.

Both pig centers will tie in to the Crop Education Center that is under construction on the Fair Oaks campus. That $14 million center is scheduled to open this fall.

A small laying hen operation also is in the works, with the goal of supplying the on-site restaurant. It should be completed by the end of this summer and will likely serve as a model for a larger-scale setup in the future.

The Pork Education Center was made possible through the support of industry partners, including the National Pork Board.

Only 1% of us make our living from production agriculture. At the same time, consumers are more informed than ever. They care where their food comes from. Fair Oaks wants to educate and provide a venue for that dialogue, Mike McCloskey, chairman of Fair Oaks Farms, said during the groundbreaking festivities last year.

All of the new centers join the original dairy education initiative upon which Fair Oaks Farms was first founded. For the past decade, the dairy cows have been attracting hundreds of thousands visitors annually who learn first-hand about commercial dairy production and enjoy some fresh local cheese and ice cream.

For more information, visit http://fofarms.com.

Volume:87 Issue:21

FAO: World hunger falls below 800 million

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped to 795 million — 216 million fewer than in 1990-92 — or around one person out of every nine, according to the latest edition of the annual U.N. hunger report "The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015" (SOFI).

In developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment — which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life — has declined to 12.9% of the population, down from 23.3% a quarter of a century ago, reports SOFI 2015, published today by the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

A majority — 72 out of 129 — of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.

"The near-achievement of the MDG hunger targets shows us that we can indeed eliminate the scourge of hunger in our lifetime. We must be the 'Zero Hunger' generation. That goal should be mainstreamed into all policy interventions and at the heart of the new sustainable development agenda to be established this year," FAO director general Jose Graziano da Silva said.

"If we truly wish to create a world free from poverty and hunger, then we must make it a priority to invest in the rural areas of developing countries where most of the world's poorest and hungriest people live," IFAD president Kanayo F. Nwanze added. "We must work to create a transformation in our rural communities so they provide decent jobs, decent conditions and decent opportunities. We must invest in rural areas so that our nations can have balanced growth and so that the three billion people who live in rural areas can fulfil their potential."

WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin said, "Men, women and children need nutritious food every day to have any chance of a free and prosperous future. Healthy bodies and minds are fundamental to both individual and economic growth, and that growth must be inclusive for us to make hunger history."

Challenging environment

Progress towards fully achieving the 2015 food security targets was hampered in recent years by challenging global economic conditions, FAO explained.

Extreme weather events, natural disasters, political instability and civil strife have all impeded progress — 24 African countries currently face food crises, twice as many as in 1990; around one of every five of the world's undernourished lives in crisis environments characterized by weak governance and acute vulnerability to death and disease.

SOFI 2015 notes that over the past 30 years, crises have evolved from catastrophic, short-term, acute and highly visible events to protracted situations, due to a combination of factors, especially natural disasters and conflicts, with climate change, financial and price crises frequently among the exacerbating factors.

Hunger rates in countries enduring protracted crises are more than three times higher than elsewhere. In 2012, some 366 million people were living in this kind situation — of whom 129 million were undernourished — 19% of all food-insecure people on the planet.

Yet, alongside these challenges, the world population has grown by 1.9 billion since 1990, making reductions of the number of hungry people all the more striking, the report says.

Biosecurity: Not just for farms

Biosecurity: Not just for farms


*Dr. Adam Fahrenholz is assistant professor in the Prestage department of poultry science at North Carolina State University. Dr. Charles Stark is the Jim & Carol Brown associate professor in feed technology at Kansas State University. Dr. Leland McKinney is with DFS Inc. in Johnston, Iowa.

BIOSECURITY has always been a concern for animal agriculture — probably even before it was known by that particular term — in striving to do what's considered important and necessary to prevent animal disease from affecting the animals under our care and management.

This is, of course, both an economic decision as well as a responsibility as animal caretakers and the very basis of the meat, milk and egg food chain.

However, the importance of biosecurity at feed mills has become exceedingly important in recent years, partly due to the emergence of particular diseases (like avian influenza) and partly because of the technology available and the management strategies implemented.

In April, the American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) released its "Guidance for Developing Biosecurity Practices for Feed & Ingredient Manufacturing," which can be downloaded free of charge on AFIA's website. The guidance was put together with input from various sources, including feed and ingredient companies as well as other agricultural groups.

Using this guidance as a base, let's discuss some things you can do in your facilities to address biosecurity.

First off, it is important to understand that the feed mill's primary biosecurity responsibility is to address any factors that could contribute to a disease issue due to feed consumption. This includes control of incoming raw materials, process evaluations and maintaining a clean facility.

However, it is also important to keep in mind that, in many cases, the feed mill can be an activity hub, either within your company or among your customers. So, in addition to protecting the finished product from contamination, feed mills should conduct a hazard assessment of their facility, feed ingredient transporters, finished feed trucks and suppliers.

For example, does the feed mill have some locations open to the public or common areas for truck drivers and employees? These areas may be potential transfer sites for disease.

Consider such questions as: Are plans in place to restrict movement of personnel and/or equipment that have potentially come in contact with animal diseases? It is common for farms to verify a visitor's most recent contact with animals. How about at your facility?

Four areas are crucial to the success of a biosecurity plan: (1) identify hazards, (2) assess risk, (3) communicate among all parties involved and (4) verify that the plan is based on sound practice and is actually working. In the feed mill, pre-manufacturing, manufacturing and post-manufacturing steps must be considered, as well as transport in between.

In pre-manufacturing, the biggest concern is almost always going to be incoming raw materials. The easiest and best way to limit risk at this step is supplier verification. This includes knowing how ingredients are sourced, processed and transported.

Different ingredients may carry different levels of risk, and this needs to be understood not only when developing a plan but when determining what is required of any individual supplier. You will need to have some idea of your suppliers' biosecurity practices. Is there a plan in place? Is it effectively practiced? Have you verified this through visits, periodic testing or by receiving third-party certifications?

Although you don't want to create a tense relationship with your suppliers, remember that you are the one answering for the feed going to the animals.

In addition to verifying supplier information, there are steps to take when ingredients arrive on site. If loads are expected to be sealed, procedures should be in place to remove seals and verify that they are correct. It is important to verify that the transport vessel won't be a potential source of contamination from road grime, leaking fluids, etc.

Also, consider whether you are able to limit access to receiving pits when not in use, e.g., they are behind locked doors and/or have locking covers. Don't forget about proper sample collection procedures, which should already be in place as per your quality assurance plan.

For the primary processing areas, most biosecurity concerns can be addressed by conforming to current good manufacturing practices and having adequate housekeeping practices in place. This includes having documented storage and inventory procedures, having a pest control plan in place and maintaining a clean facility both indoors and out.

Strategically placing and monitoring foot baths at entrances may be one way to reduce the risk of disease transfer by drivers and employees. For all areas (pre-, post- and during manufacturing), consider staffing and facility layouts to limit potential access to the site. Finally, what is the disposal program for any contaminated ingredients/feeds and disposable coveralls and boots?

Post-facility factors are some of the most difficult to address, as these may or may not be under the feed mill's control — the condition of farms, traffic between farms, wind, etc.

First and foremost, delivery drivers should know the disease status of any delivery locations; plan deliveries and subsequent activities accordingly. In reality, any time a driver is prevented from putting boots on the ground at a farm, it lowers the risk. However, if drivers must get out of the truck, disposable boots and coveralls may be required. Drivers should receive training on how to safely use the equipment and dispose of their boots and coveralls prior to leaving the site.

Biosecurity at the feed mill is everyone's responsibility, starting with a commitment from management to provide the resources necessary to minimize the transfer of animal diseases.

Employee training and awareness is critical for any biosecurity program, especially because, in many instances, the risks are associated with unseen pathogens that affect animal health. Last, realize that the risks change and evolve over time, and the biosecurity plan should be routinely evaluated and updated as necessary.

Volume:87 Issue:21

AFIA releases biosecurity guidance

AFIA releases biosecurity guidance

IN the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the government asked animal agriculture industries to release guidelines to their manufacturing facilities on protecting the nation's agricultural assets.

The American Feed Industry Assn. (AFIA) developed the "2012 Bioterrorism Awareness Guidelines," which it recently redesigned as a broadened biosecurity document for the feed and ingredient manufacturing industries.

The document's purpose is to provide feed and ingredient manufacturers with recommendations to develop a biosecurity plan to help control the potential spread of animal disease through the manufacturing, transport and use of feed and feed ingredients.

"During the last two years, AFIA discussed the development of a foreign animal disease risk model with the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service, formed a working group and re-evaluated our 2012 bioterrorism guide," AFIA president and chief executive officer Joel G. Newman said. "This is a tremendous resource for our members, and I greatly appreciate the leadership of this task force for developing a high-quality guidance document that will assist our members and the industry in the control of biological hazards."

The working group -- which includes scientists from the feed industry and representatives from the National Grain & Feed Assn., National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council and National Renderers Assn. -- rewrote the guide with a focus on protecting the feed industry's assets and ensuring that the latest science was considered in order to protect operations and animals from the spread of animal disease.


Volume:87 Issue:21

BASF sponsors space farming research project

Is it possible to produce large quantities of high-quality vegetables on a space station, about 320 km away from Earth?

To answer this question, three 12th-grade students from the agricultural program at the Edith Stein School in Ravensburg, Germany, set up a research project to examine how crops can be cultivated in the microgravity of space.

The research trial is scheduled for take-off to the International Space Station (ISS) by the end of 2015 and will have the scientific and financial sponsorship of BASF.

"We are excited about this project and about working with forward-thinking young people who strive for groundbreaking ideas and innovation. With our 100 years of experience in agriculture, it has been a thrilling challenge to investigate what could come next and how to achieve the ultimate goal of growing and reproducing plants on a space station," Dr. Harald Rang, senior vice president for research and development at BASF Crop Protection, said.

Under normal gravitational conditions on earth, cuttings can be used to reproduce plants. Roots and leaves can grow and further develop from these cuttings. The roots grow towards the Earth's center, in the direction of gravity, and the sprouts, in contrast, grow towards their light source, the Sun.

If cuttings could be used for the reproduction of plants in microgravity, this would be a major step forward in the effort to supply long-term space flights — e.g., to Mars — with food from space farming. However, until now, experiments conducted in microgravity have focused on studying the growth of the seedlings' roots.

In contrast to seedlings, cuttings do not have a root system. Thus, the question the students are attempting to answer with their experiment is simple but groundbreaking: Can cuttings grow their own root system without gravity to guide them?

To ensure the success of the experiment, the student research team is currently developing an appropriate experimental design for ISS. BASF is providing knowledge on how to keep the plants healthy and free from fungal disease during the foreseen 30 days in the ISS environment.

The students will do an internship with experts at the BASF Agricultural Center in Limburgerhof, Germany, before conducting trials at Kennedy Space Center laboratories in Florida.

The Edith Stein School Ravensburg & Aulendorf is a vocational school more than 20 different types of educational programs. The school has about 2,000 students and more than 140 teachers.

The BASF Crop Protection division provides innovative solutions in crop protection, seed treatment and biological control as well as innovations to manage nutrients and plant stress.

Aerosol particles of PEDV in manure studied

Aerosol particles of PEDV in manure studied

SOON after porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) emerged in the U.S., the ability of the virus to live in manure became a topic of concern.

In 2014, research conducted by Dr. Steve Tousignant at the University of Minnesota Swine Disease Eradication Center confirmed that the virus could remain viable in manure pits for up to four months after pigs were removed.

Gerald May, senior extension educator with Michigan State University Extension, said knowing this created discussion about what happens when swine producers start filling manure tanks with virus-contaminated manure, whether aerosol particles could be present and, if they are present, whether the particles could potentially re-infect pigs in the barn where the manure was being removed.

May said ongoing research seeks to answer whether aerosol particles are present at the point where the manure discharges into the manure spreader.

The Michigan Pork Producers Assn. (MPPA) initially funded a project that tested one farm, but after positive results, MPPA and the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture provided further funding to test 10 additional farms.

May pointed out that the hog industry has done such a good job of handling PEDV that the researchers have been limited in the number of qualifying farms.

"Our concern is bio-aerosol spread of the virus," May said. "If you think of (crop) sprayer drift, that's what we're looking for — that size particle that will carry the virus to farther distances."

May said while the research is rather limited in scope, there is currently some discussion about conducting additional research projects to look at all phases of the manure spreading process.

Dr. Melissa Millerick-May with Michigan State University's department of occupational and environmental medicine leads the research project.

Four farms have already been tested this year, and the other six farms will be tested throughout the summer, May said, adding that the summarized report will be available in the fall.

Volume:86 Issue:21

Efficient cows better for environment, profits

Efficient cows better for environment, profits

DAIRY farms with higher-producing cows create smaller carbon footprints and are more profitable, a win-win situation for everyone, including the cows, according to Victor E. Cabrera, a University of Wisconsin-Madison extension professor and dairy systems management specialist.

"Implementing dairy farm management strategies that increase milk production, decrease the herd replacement rate or improve reproductive efficiency can increase farm profits while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions," Cabrera said.

Using the Integrated Farm System Model, Cabrera and doctoral student Di Liang tested different management strategies for a typical Wisconsin farm to see what the outcome would be regarding the economics, the net return and the environment. A simulation using this model takes into account numerous interacting processes that include crop and pasture production, crop harvest, feed storage, grazing, feeding and manure handling.

"We found that the closer a cow is to maximum milk production potential, the more efficient (it is) both economically and environmentally," Cabrera said.

As cows give more milk, they eat more and use more resources. However, since maintenance feed has already been accounted for, any additional feed consumed is used specifically for milk production. From an efficiency standpoint, more milk is produced in relation to environmental effects as milk production increases.

Cabrera said, "If farmers have the opportunity to increase dairy productivity, they should do it, because according to our data, they will not only have a better net return, but they will also help the environment by having fewer emissions per unit of milk produced."


Social behavior

Calves of dairy cows are generally separated from their mothers within the first 24 hours after birth so that the majority of the milk can enter the food market.

Researchers at the Veterinary Medicine University in Vienna, Austria (Vetmeduni Vienna) studied the long-term effects on calves of early maternal deprivation.

The researchers said the study shows that calves that have contact with their mothers or with other cows during rearing become more sociable adults. The results of the study were published in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Austria produces 3.4 million metric tons of milk a year. To help achieve this volume, dairy cows are typically separated from their calves just a few hours after giving birth. The calves are then fed milk or milk replacer via bucket or from an automatic feeder.

After a few days or weeks in single housing, the young animals are usually transferred to a calf group, the researchers explained.

"Research has shown that the early social environment affects behavior, stress reactivity and the ability to cope with different challenges in various animal species," said project leader Susanne Waiblinger from the Institute of Animal Husbandry & Animal Welfare.

Waiblinger and first author Kathrin Wagner studied these effects in dairy cows. A previously published sub-study by the researchers already showed that rearing calves with maternal contact gives rise to adult cows with higher social competence.

Together with a group of colleagues from Vetmeduni Vienna and the Thunen Institute of Organic Farming in Germany, Wagner and Waiblinger examined a total of 26 cows that were reared differently.

Eleven animals were separated from their mothers immediately after birth, before entering the calf group and being fed milk via automatic feeder.

The remaining 15 calves were kept with their mothers in the calving pen for the first five days and were able to establish a mother/calf bond during this time, according to the researchers. These calves were then also moved to the calf area but continued to have contact with their mothers. Nine of these calves were allowed access to their mothers twice a day, while the remaining six were able to move between the calf group and the cow herd at all times.

The researchers performed different tests with the grown-up animals to determine whether the different rearing strategies had a long-term effect on the behavior of the animals in stressful situations.

"Cattle are herd animals. As expected, all animals, whether they were reared with or without mothers, produced higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol when being isolated from the herd," Waiblinger explained, adding that cattle reared with their mothers expressed the highest levels of cortisol during isolation, but the heart rate measured in these animals was the lowest.

Waiblinger said, "There are fundamentally different reaction types. Some animals respond to stress situations with an increased heart rate; others produce cortisol. It is possible that the different rearing treatments result in different reaction types."

Differences could also be seen in the animals' behavior. Calves reared with their mothers, especially those who had constant maternal contact as well as contact with the herd, were more active during isolation: They moved more in their calving boxes and explored their surroundings more actively than cattle reared without their mothers. This could indicate a higher level of motivation to rejoin the herd and a more active way to cope with the challenge of isolation, the announcement said.

The research shows that a richer social environment during rearing, i.e., contact with mothers and other cows, makes animals more sociable and socially competent as adults.

However, the researchers did not discuss how the social rearing system may influence milk production parameters of the dams or the saleability of the milk.


Brisket disease

Vanderbilt University researchers have found a genetic mutation that causes pulmonary hypertension in cattle grazed at a high altitude, which leads to a life-threatening condition called brisket disease.

Their findings, reported in Nature Communications, may shed light on human lung disease and, in particular, the mechanism behind non-familial pulmonary hypertension in patients with conditions such as emphysema and pulmonary fibrosis.

"A genetic variant in cattle might tell us why some humans get into trouble at sea level and at altitude," said first author Dr. John H. Newman, the Elsa S. Hanigan professor of pulmonary medicine at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

When the lung experiences low oxygen, or hypoxia, the blood vessels of the lung constrict. Over time in continued hypoxic conditions, these vessels become muscularized, resulting in pulmonary hypertension — high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lung.

Lowland cattle can develop pulmonary hypertension after being at a high altitude over a period of six months to a year.

Brisket disease, or right heart failure, develops when the heart fails to pump against the high pulmonary blood pressure. If these animals are not brought to lower altitudes, they will die. Brisket disease costs millions of dollars in losses each year in the Rocky Mountains, where the herds graze.

Fifteen years ago, Newman and Dr. James Loyd, the Rudy W. Jacobson professor of pulmonary medicine, as well as their colleagues, identified the genetic basis for familial pulmonary hypertension in people — mutations in a gene called BMPR2.

"I was sitting in our conference room after we had found the BMPR2 gene in humans, and I thought, 'Well, we should be able to find the brisket gene in cattle using the same strategy'," Newman said.

In collaboration with Dr. Timothy Holt, an expert on brisket disease at Colorado State University, the Vanderbilt group set out to identify a genetic component for this condition.

Holt evaluated cattle herds for pulmonary hypertension and sent blood samples to the laboratory of Vanderbilt professor John A. Phillips III, where DNA was extracted and analyzed.

Newman, Phillips and their colleagues discovered that most of the cattle with high-altitude pulmonary hypertension had a double mutation in a single gene that expresses hypoxia inducible factor HIF2alpha.

At a low altitude, the HIF2alpha protein is continually degraded and has no effect. However, in a hypoxic environment, it is activated and initiates a series of events to combat the physiological effects of low oxygen.

The mutation found in the cattle renders the protein resistant to degradation, resulting in excessive pulmonary hypertension.

The Vanderbilt group is currently working on a test to help ranchers determine which cows carry this genetic susceptibility and should remain at low altitudes. This test might reduce the prevalence of brisket disease and save ranchers costly losses of stock.

Volume:87 Issue:18