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VFD Preparedness Checklist for Veterinarians - POULTRY

VFD Preparedness Checklist for Veterinarians - BEEF

VFD Preparedness Checklist for Veterinarians - SWINE

Elanco's 8-point Antibiotic Stewardship Plan

Elanco supports the responsible use of antibiotics in animals intended for human consumption. Elanco supports risk assessments—especially for antibiotics deemed critical for human and animal use—so that prudent use in animals will minimize any potential impact on human health. Elanco further supports the adoption of global trade standards and guidelines, including internationally established maximum residue levels for all products.


Elanco's 8-point Antibiotic Stewardship Plan

Soybeans turn lower, while soybean meal stays higher: Podcast

Soybeans futures turned lower in Friday's daytime trading despite more gains and contract highs in soybean meal. The gains in soybean meal come as Argentina’s soybean crop is expected to be hurt by excess rain. Argentina is the world’s largest export of soybean meal. A strong dollar may keeping pressure on crops.

The dollar is at a two-month high amid ideas the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in June.    

Bob Burgdorfer of Farm Futures reporting. Farm Futures is a sister publication of Feedstuffs.

N&H TOP LINE: Researchers look for welfare cues

It’s easy to tell when friends and family are ecstatic or upset. People are human-centric, and hardwired to pick up the physical cues and social signals that indicate relaxed or stressed states.

However, animals have their own world of signals that are hard for us to pick up on. Not only that, they have a life-or-death interest in hiding their true physical state from predators further up the food chain, including people.

“The thing about cows and sheep is that as plains-living herd animals, they are very discrete with their health problems, so they aren’t so obvious a target for predators,” said Dr. Jonathan Amory from Writtle College in the U.K. “That means you don’t get much by way of obvious behavior — even for 10 seconds unless they are very unhealthy or very stressed.”

It’s this silent, but potentially significant, number that might be suffering that animal welfare researchers like Amory and his team want to know how to find. People get a lot from animals — from food to leather and wool to waxes — through relationships with domesticated animals goes back centuries.

Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded research groups across the U.K. are using innovative new techniques to get a closer and more accurate look at an animal’s welfare state, particularly those relevant to farming and agriculture.

Amory’s team is developing a cow-tracking project in collaboration with the University of Essex, Royal Veterinary College and the University of Exeter that can autonomously monitor cows' behavior over prolonged periods.

“The aim of the project was to identify behaviors in dairy cattle that could be used as predictors for common diseases like lameness and mastitis,” Amory said.

To do this, his team have used a new type of cow-mounted biosensor that combines real-time local positioning, a 3D accelerometer to sense movement, a magnetometer for orientation and a temperature sensor. This package is then worn around an animal’s neck and captures the cows’ activity budgets, their proximity to herd mates and the locations of these interactions.

“We are finding changes in behavior associated with diseases,” Amory explained. “We also know that there is very wide variation between individual cows and also between days for individual cows, so this may well give us more questions to ask of the data.”

The sensors each collected more than 1 million rows of data each day, and the team is only now beginning to analyze the data in full. Challenges along the way ranged from everything from limited battery time, to working out the best place on a cow to mount the sensors so they could tell whether the cow was standing or lying.

Being aware of abnormal behaviors might be a quick way for farm workers to take a closer look at an individual, and in the future the system is easily adaptable to send farmers or veterinarians instant updates of an animal’s health, welfare and location.


Pig’s eye view

Attaching sensors and monitors to animals is nothing new — these days they are smaller, less intrusive and collate and send more data than the more cumbersome radio transmitters of old. However, there are still inventive ways to use these devices.

Dr. Lisa Collins’ group at the University of Lincoln in the U.K. used a GoPro camera to capture a pig’s eye view of the animal’s environment and their experimental set-up before their main experiments began.

“This was to determine whether there were any distractions at eye level that could potentially affect our study later on,” she explained.

Her team is using a combination of cross-disciplinary techniques to investigate how individual animals respond to particular conditions, including information processing and personality assessment, as well as mathematical, statistical and systems-modelling approaches.

Like Amory’s team, she’s also found differences on the individual level. “We’ve known for a long time that there is a great deal of variation in indicators of animal welfare between individuals, but we are only just starting to understand the factors that are driving this variation,” she said.

Emotional and cognitive processes in people are well studied, and Collins’ group is using analogous studies in animals to determine whether the processes observed in people are also shared by other species. “Previously, it has been suggested that animals in a better mood would interpret an ambiguous stimulus more optimistically than animals in a worse mood,” she said. “We find that while this is true, animals can also have more optimistic or pessimistic personalities, and that they combine these predilections with their mood to interpret ambiguous stimuli.”

This means that while elements of a response to a stimulus may remain consistent, other elements of that response may have the potential to vary — just as in people. “By maintaining both stable and flexible traits in their responses to unknown features in their environment, humans and animals are able to respond appropriately to both constant and changing aspects of their surroundings,” Collins said. “How this impacts on animal welfare is as yet unknown. We are only just starting to scratch the surface of this research area, and there is a vast amount we are yet to uncover.”


The stress is cool

Other BBSRC-funded researchers have been looking into novel ways to find out if an animal is stressed. Chickens are a challenging target, because they typically share their barns with thousands of other chickens, so individuals are harder to observe.

Dr. Dorothy McKeegan and her group from the University of Glasgow have been experimenting with infrared thermography technology (IRT) — a heat camera — that shows the relatively hot and cooler parts of the chicken through the colors of the visible light spectrum.

IRT "is a promising welfare assessment measure largely because it allows us to assess stress in a completely non-invasive way,” she said. “This means we can potentially assess welfare from a distance, without physical interference with the animals, over a long period of time.”

It works because of a phenomenon in warm-blooded animals called stress-induced hypothermia, where core body temperature rises after stress exposure as blood flow is directed to the body’s organs and away from the surface — in preparation for a flight-or-fight response, for example. Following a stressful stimulus (such as handling or a sudden, unfamiliar sound), the IRT is sensitive enough to pick up this surface temperature drop as blood flows to organs. This allows identification of stressed birds and, crucially, gives us an indication of how stressed they are.

However, McKeegan said the technology isn’t quite at the stage of being used in a commercial setting. Their experimental studies are following individual hens at present, in a controlled setting, which won’t always be feasible. Another problem is that a lot of physiological processes are the same after positive and negative experiences, such as the release of "stress hormones."

“This makes these physiological reactions a measure of ‘emotional arousal,’ rather than of whether something is good or bad (valence),” she explained. “One of our hopes is that IRT can tell us more about valence, which would be a really important benefit compared to other physiological measures of welfare.”

McKeegan added that their results are encouraging and with more translational research, IRT has the potential to be used a non-invasive stress measure in commercial settings.

Dr. Francoise Wemelsfelder from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) added that welfare can be measured on many levels, in terms of physical health, behavior or the animal’s experience. Clearly, understanding what animals "feel" is not an easy task.

“We have to be very careful not to view animals through human-tinted glasses, and make the mistake of thinking they will necessarily experience things the way we do,” Wemelsfelder said.

Animal welfare is a serious issue in farming and agriculture, and by trying to better understand how "happy" or "unhappy" animals are, as well as why, protocols can be developed for how animals are kept and treated that minimize stress and maximize wellbeing.

Find out more about BBSRC’s work in this area using the links below:

Research shows paradigm shift in consumer behavior

Research has shown price is important in nearly every buying decision, but a new doctoral study by researcher Ken Wicker through Capella University’s School of Business shows today's grocery shoppers are placing more value on quality and service than price alone.

The study titled, “A study of customer value and loyalty in the supermarket industry,” surveyed shoppers in Atlanta, Ga. using decision factors of price, quality, service, convenience, store atmosphere and store brands. The research revealed new insights on customer loyalty and perception of value.

“Quality [overall] and high-quality perishables far outranked price,” Wicker reported. “That was the number one predictor of value and loyalty for supermarket customers.”

The findings on quality and loyalty go to the heart of strategic planning, especially in the food business.

“Loyal customers shop with you more often and spend more when they’re with you, whether it’s in the restaurant industry or the supermarket industry,” Wicker explained.

The link between quality and loyalty was easy to see. For example, if poor quality became apparent at their primary store, more than 72% of survey participants agreed or “strongly agreed” they would stop shopping there. A similar share of those surveyed said they will pay more for higher quality foods, and 67% would not sacrifice quality for low price.

Prior research suggested that customers on a limited food budget were searching for perishable items fitting a category of “lesser quality for lower price.” Wicker said his work shows that belief is misguided. The size of a customer’s budget does not appear to lessen the importance of quality.

“Actually, customers with less expendable income view poor quality as a risk they cannot afford because it might waste their money,” he explained. Wicker’s research concluded customers would rather spend their limited budget on higher quality items they can trust, even if they cost more.

 Although there was no sole focus on the meat case, beef products were an integral part of the perishable items evaluated, Wicker said, noting a message for the greater beef industry.

“The quality – that’s where it starts,” he said. “Many meals are built around meat as the main component. If the customer builds a whole meal around a specific cut of meat, or patronizes their favorite restaurant and the quality is not good, you stand a high chance of losing a loyal customer.”

Wicker knows enough about the production side to see that stakeholders in every segment of the beef industry play a role in supplying consumers with products that satisfy their desire for high quality and help create loyalty. That loyalty goes to both the premium beef and the store that features it, he said.

“Customers today expect quality more than they ever have before. Fixed costs [of cattle production] are pretty similar whether you’re raising a high-quality product or a minimal-standard product, but if you choose to deliver a high-quality product at a fair value, that’s going to resonate with the customer and build loyalty.”

Biosecurity required for salmonella prevention

While vaccination plays an important role in salmonella prevention, it should be complemented with other prevention measures such as an effective biosecurity program, according to Dr. Kate Hayes, production program veterinarian for Aviagen North America.

Hayes explored the topic of salmonella vaccination during a presentation at the recent 65th Western Poultry Disease Conference (WPDC) in Vancouver, B.C.

“At Aviagen, we continually strive to protect our valuable breeding stock from the threat of pathogens. Vaccination can be an effective tool to safeguard against disease; however, alone it is not enough,” Hayes said. “Vaccination must be administered as a careful supplement to an effective biosecurity program. Biosecurity is imperative to keep our birds healthy and provide the world’s consumers with a steady and sustainable supply of poultry meat.”

This year’s WPDC explored the theme of “Consumer Demand and Poultry Production.” In addition to Hayes, attendees also attended discussions on avian influenza, salmonella control, antimicrobial resistance and disease management.

New platform for antibiotic discovery created

In ongoing debates about responsible antimicrobial use, one common point is the lack of research into new antibiotic compounds for both human and veterinary medicine.

Harvard researchers have created a new, greatly simplified, platform for antibiotic discovery that may go a long way to solving the crisis of antibiotic resistance.

In a study just published in the journal Nature, Andrew G. Myers and colleagues describe "a platform where we assemble eight (chemical) building blocks by a simple process to make macrolide antibiotics" without using erythromycin, the original macrolide antibiotic, and the drug upon which all others in the class have been based since the early 1950s.

Erythromycin, which was discovered in a soil sample from the Philippines in 1949, has been on the market as a drug by 1953.

"For 60 years chemists have been very, very creative, finding clever ways to 'decorate' this molecule, making changes around its periphery to produce antibiotics that are safer, more effective and overcome the resistance bacteria have developed," Myers, the Amory Houghton professor of chemistry and chemical biology in Harvard's department of chemistry and chemical biology, said. "That process is semisynthesis, modifying the naturally occurring substance."

In contrast, the process described in the Nature study involves using "eight industrial chemicals, or substances derived from them," Myers explained, and manipulating them in various combinations and then testing the products against panels of disease-causing bacteria. This allows the researchers to make new "new compounds in fewer steps than was previously possible."

Ian H. Seipel, who was a post-doctoral fellow in Myers's lab and now is at the School of Pharmacy at the University of California-San Francisco, and Ziyang Zhang, a Myers post-doctoral collaborator, are first author's on the Nature report.

For a host of reasons — from the difficulty of developing antibiotics to the relatively low return on investment they offer — by 2013 the number of international pharmaceutical companies developing antibiotics had dwindled to four. Also, in each five year period from 1983 through 2007, the number of new antibiotics approved for use in the U.S. decreased, from 16 at the beginning of that period to only five by its end.

One thing that has complicated antibiotic development is a perceived reluctance by federal agencies to fund the research. In fact, Myers said, his new antibiotic development system would have been impossible without support from a Harvard alum and his wife who are interested in science, and Harvard's Blavatnik Accelerator Fund, which provided support for the initial creation of Myers's company Macrolide Pharmaceuticals.

"I was making a presentation to a group of visiting alums interested in science and one, Alastair Mactaggart, asked me about funding. I told him I had no funding — because at that time we didn't, and he followed me back to my office and said, 'This is ridiculous: We have to do something about this.'"

Myers said without the support of MacTaggart and his wife, Celine, and the Gustavus & Louise Pfeiffer Research Foundation, the new antibiotic creation platform would not exist. "The Blavatnik Accelerator funding was also hugely important."

The Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator awarded funding to Myers' project in 2013, enabling synthesis and testing of compounds. In 2015, with support from Harvard's Office of Technology Development, Myers founded a startup, Macrolide Pharmaceuticals, which has licensed the synthesis platform and aims to commercialize novel antibiotics for serious infections.

"One of the things that's quite encouraging about the data in our paper is that some of the structures we've made are active against clinical bacterial strains that are resistant to every known macrolide," Myers said.

In fact, he added, two of the 350 compounds reported on in the Nature paper have, in initial testing, shown efficacy against a bacterium that has become resistant to vancomycin, "which is known as the antibiotic of last resort, and if you have a bug that's resistant to vancomycin, you're in trouble."

"This is an early effort," Myers said of his lab's work with the new drug development system. "We have a lot of work ahead of us." Some of the 350 compounds reported on in the paper will undergo more extensive testing to evaluate their potential as candidate drugs.

Myers pointed out that the road from drug candidate to a treatment at the bedside is long, arduous and expensive. First comes the initial identification of possible compounds. "Microbiologists evaluate those against panels of bacteria," Myers explained. "Hopefully your panels contain clinically relevant strains that are found in hospitals." If an effective compound is found, it is then advanced: First to make sure it's not toxic to human cells in the lab; then to see how stable it is in human plasma; next come animal studies — typically in rodents to see if infection can be cured, and then come three phases of human studies.

U.S. lamb regains access to Taiwan

For the first time since 2003, U.S. lamb and lamb products have regained access to Taiwan. Dr. Dennis Stiffler, chief executive officer of Mountain States Rosen, a producer-owned and operated processor and distributor of lamb and veal products, thanked U.S. agricultural and trade officials for their efforts to restore market access for U.S. lamb and said the announcement provides a much-needed lift for U.S. lamb exports.

“This is the culmination of many months of work by U.S. government officials, as well as the U.S. meat industry, and we are very excited to resume exporting lamb to Taiwan,” said Stiffler, who also serves as vice chair of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). “Taiwanese consumers enjoy high-quality, grain-fed meat, as evidenced by the success U.S. beef and pork have achieved in the market. The U.S. lamb industry is anxious to capitalize on significant opportunities in Taiwan’s restaurant and retail sectors.”

U.S. lamb lost access to several key markets, including Taiwan, following the first U.S. case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in December 2003. The market closures were due to concerns related to scrapie, a disease similar to BSE. Asian markets that remain closed to U.S. lamb include Japan and South Korea.

“Reopening these markets has been a top priority for the lamb industry, because lack of access in Asia has been a significant obstacle for U.S. lamb exports,” Stiffler explained. “Weakness of the Mexican peso and Canadian dollar has recently reduced exports to our two largest markets. So now more than ever, U.S. lamb needs a broader range of alternative destinations. Our industry has had some recent success in the Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean, but we really need greater access to Asian markets in order to meet our export goals. We see the reopening of Taiwan as a great first step.”

Last year Taiwan imported nearly 17,714 metric tons (mt) of lamb and sheep meat products, valued at more than $74 million. In terms of value, the market was split about evenly between Australia and New Zealand – the only two supplying countries currently serving Taiwan. It was the 11th-largest export for New Zealand lamb and sheep meat in 2015 and was Australia’s 12th-largest market.

A proceeding is also underway in Japan in which regulators are examining the possibility of restoring access for U.S. lamb. Pre-BSE, Japan was a leading destination for U.S. lamb exports. Last year Japan’s lamb and sheep meat imports were slightly above Taiwan’s in volume (18,144 mt), but significantly higher in value at $133.6 million. Australia supplies about 70% of Japan’s lamb and sheep meat. The remaining share comes mostly from New Zealand, though Japan also imports small volumes from Iceland.

“Prior to closing, Japan was an excellent market for U.S. lamb,” Stiffler said. “We greatly look forward to rebuilding consumer demand for U.S. lamb in Japan and hope that this opportunity presents itself in the near future.”

Through the first quarter of 2016, U.S. lamb and lamb variety meat exports totaled 2,676 mt – up 18% year-over-year. However, export value was 16% below last year’s pace at $4.5 million.