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Articles from 2017 In May


Pharmacokinetics studies test drug efficacy in pork production

A recently completed series of studies by Iowa State veterinarians on some of the most commonly prescribed drugs used in pork production will help improve food safety and allow producers to make better use of medications.

The series of four separate studies focused on "pharmacokinetics," or how drugs move through and exit an organism. Locke Karriker, a professor and interim chair of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine and a Gustafson professor of teaching excellence, led the studies, which tested the pharmacokinetics of antibiotics in swine.

Working out the factors that influence pharmacokinetics will help veterinarians and producers treat herds as efficiently and effectively as possible while also ensuring that pigs are free of medications when marketed, Karriker said.

“In order to treat a disease, we have to get the drug to pass through the correct tissues to get to the right part of the animal at a high enough concentration to be effective, then get back out of the animal for food safety purposes,” he said.

Each study tracked how medications used in swine production — penicillin and amoxicillin, for example — moved through healthy pigs at various dosages. The research team used chemistry and mathematical models to calculate how long each drug took to leave a pig’s system entirely.

The data created for the study can inform veterinarians and pork producers about the best timing and drug dosage to use to improve pig health while maintaining pork safety.

Karriker said the studies found that minute traces of the drugs remained in the pigs longer than previous models predicted, albeit at levels below the legal thresholds allowed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. The studies also found that traces of the drugs remained near the injection sites, even after the drugs became undetectable in other tissues, such as kidney or urine samples.

The studies point to ways producers can make better use of drugs by delivering doses large enough to treat various diseases — but no larger.

“We want to be as judicious as possible in the administration of these drugs,” Karriker said. “Ideally, you use as little of the drug as necessary while still being efficacious.”

He said the next step in the research is to perform similar trials, but in environments that more closely resemble on-farm conditions. The current studies looked at a limited number of healthy pigs in a controlled setting -- a far cry from a real-life hog operation. He said scaling up the experiments could yield further insights into better hog operations.

For instance, the completed experiments indicated that the presence of a virus may influence how a pig metabolizes drugs, which then affect pharmacokinetics. So, further research may help farmers leverage their efforts to stop viruses in a way that improves the performance of other seemingly unconnected medications.

“A well-considered vaccination program for viruses makes your antimicrobial program more effective,” Karriker said.

Patrick Cudahy, Green Bay Packers renew partnership

football on field

Patrick Cudahy, a brand of Smithfield Foods, is once again teaming up with the Green Bay Packers for the upcoming National Football League (NFL) season. The number-one bacon brand in the state of Wisconsin is renewing its partnership with the team, maintaining its designation as the "Official Bacon of the Green Bay Packers" and the "Official Bacon of Lambeau Field."

A new mobile marketing tour is also in the works, bringing the brand's one-of-a-kind flavors to fans throughout Wisconsin, according to the company. Samples, coupons, giveaways and a consumer sweepstakes will highlight the "Pack Wagon" tour, which will visit retail stores and festivals this summer.

"Patrick Cudahy, Wisconsin and the Green Bay Packers are inseparable. We are honored to partner with the Packers for a second season," said Bud Matthews, Patrick Cudahy brand senior vice president for Smithfield Foods. "Packers fans are unlike any other in sports, and we are looking forward to bringing our brand experience to the team's loyal fan base throughout the state with our new Pack Wagon."

As part of the partnership, the Patrick Cudahy Pack House will return to Lambeau Field for the upcoming NFL season. The bacon-centric concession stand will once again feature recipes created by Patrick Cudahy brand ambassador and Packers executive chef Heath Barbato. The Pack House will showcase the brand's new Black Forest bacon this year, along with the sweet apple-wood smoked bacon.

“The Green Bay Packers are excited to continue our partnership with Patrick Cudahy," said Chad Watson, the Packers director of sales and business development. "We are thrilled to once again provide Patrick Cudahy's unique offerings for our fans at Lambeau Field."

North Carolina poultry company, DOL agree on back wages

Credit: buhanovskiy/iStock/Thinkstock. broiler chickens

A North Carolina company that rounds up live chickens for poultry processors has paid nearly $600,000 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages to 838 workers as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

The Marshville, N.C., company Unicon Inc. paid the back wages to employees who worked as chicken catchers and van drivers. Investigators with the DOL Wage & Hour Division found violations of the Fair Labor Standard Act’s overtime and recordkeeping provisions at the company’s work sites throughout the Northeast and Southeast.

“The violations resulted from the company’s failure to pay for all the hours employees had worked. Specifically, Unicon made automatic deductions from payroll for lunch and other breaks that crew leaders and catch crew members did not actually take,” DOL explained. “The firm also failed to pay workers for time they spent on work activities prior to the start of the actual catching process and failed to pay crew leaders for time spent picking up catch crew members and cleaning company vans.”

Additionally, the division cited the employer for not maintaining work time and payroll records.

“This agreement goes a long way to ensure that Unicon’s workers are made whole by providing the wages they earned. It also levels the playing field for other employers in this industry,” said Mark Watson, administrator of the division’s Northeast Region.

The fair labor law requires that covered, non-exempt employees be paid at least the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time-and-a-half their regular rates -- including commissions, bonuses and incentive pay -- for time worked beyond 40 hours per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.

Scientists discover how some pigs cope in cold climates

rakijung/iStock/Thinkstock young pigs

A new paper in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology revealed that pig breeds such as Tibetan pigs and Min pigs use a unique method to survive when exposed to cold environments. This has important implications for the swine industry, as cold weather is a major cause of death in newborn piglets, according to the announcement.

Previous studies have shown that mice use brown fat to produce heat and maintain core body temperature without shivering. They do this using an uncoupling protein, UCP1, to convert fat to heat. Most pig breeds come from tropical habitats, so with no need to produce heat, they lost functional UCP1 around 20 million years ago. This lack of UCP1 makes many pigs susceptible to health problems due to cold.

However, several pig breeds are cold resistant. Although the full molecular mechanism causing cold resistance in pigs is currently unknown, the paper shows that this resistance is not dependent on shivering but, rather, on a different uncoupling protein — UCP3 — and white fat.

White fat is the primary energy storage organ and has been shown to develop "brown-like" fat cells — also known as brown-in-white or beige cells — in response to various activators. The production of heat from beige fat cells still requires an uncoupling protein, but because pigs don't have UCP1, scientists didn't know how cold-resistant pigs were able to use beige fat cells in heat production.

By testing three breeds, all indigenous to China, the paper explains that UCP3 can be used for heat production. It notes that UCP3 is present in cold-resistant pigs such as Tibetan and Min breeds, but not in cold-sensitive breeds such as Bama pigs. Tibetan and Min pigs are from mountainous Tibet and northeast China, respectively, where they are exposed to variable climates that drop below freezing in winter. In contrast, Bama pigs are domesticated and bred for meat production and scientific testing, so they are not exposed to cold climates as often.

The paper explains that the eight dominant pig breeds found across China can, in fact, be classified into cold-sensitive and cold-resistant breeds based on their UCP3 DNA sequence. This indicates that UCP3 has contributed to the evolution of cold resistance in the pig and overturns the idea that UCP1 is the only uncoupling protein used in heat production, the researchers said.

The use of brown-in-white fat cells and UCP3 for heat regulation in pigs has important practical implications. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of heat regulation in cold-resistant pigs might provide a strategy for genome editing techniques to reduce cold stress-related piglet mortality, the researchers said.

"Neonatal mortality of piglets caused by cold stress at birth is a major concern for the swine industry in cold regions worldwide, because reduced piglet survival rates in such areas cause huge economic losses in pig production," Jianguo Zhao, one of the paper's authors, explained. "Yet, several breeds have adapted to cold environments and are well recognized to be cold tolerant. This provides a potential candidate target for small molecules and/or genome editing techniques to reduce cold stress-mediated neonatal mortality in the pig industry."

The paper, "Cold Adaptation in Pigs Depends on UCP3 in Beige Adipocytes," is available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/jmcb/mjx018.

Improving wheat yields by increasing grain size, weight

Credit: Photo by Emily Weber/South Dakota State University. South Dakota State University associate biology and microbiology professor Wanlong Li assesses the growth of two-week-old wheat seedlings. Through a new three-year, $930,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Li hopes to improve wheat yields by increasing the size and weight of the kernels.
South Dakota State University associate biology and microbiology professor Wanlong Li assesses the growth of two-week-old wheat seedlings. Through a new three-year, $930,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Li hopes to improve wheat yields by increasing the size and weight of the kernels.

Wanlong Li, associate professor in the South Dakota State University department of biology and microbiology, seeks to increase wheat production via larger, heavier wheat kernels.

Through a three-year, $930,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, Li is collaborating with Bing Yang, an associate professor in genetics, development and cell biology at Iowa State University, to increase wheat grain size and weight using a precise gene editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9.

South Dakota State is one of seven universities nationwide to receive funding to develop new wheat varieties as part of the National Institute of Food & Agriculture’s International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP) Program. The program supports the G20’s Wheat Initiative, which seeks to enhance genetics related to yield and develop varieties adapted to different regions and environmental conditions.

The goal of the IWYP Program, which was formed in 2014, is to increase wheat yields by 50% in 20 years. Currently, the yearly yield gain is less than 1%, but to meet the IWYP goal, wheat yields must increase 1.7% per year.

“It’s a quantum leap,” Li said. “We need a lot of work to reach this.”

People consume more than 500 million tons of wheat per year, according to Li. However, U.S. wheat production is decreasing because farmers can make more money growing other crops. He hopes that increasing the yield potential will make wheat more profitable.

First, the researchers will identify genes that control grain size and weight in bread wheat using the rice genome as a model.

The CRISPR editing tool allows the researchers to knock out each negatively regulating gene and, thus, study its function, according to Li. “CRISPR is both fast and precise,” he added. “It can produce very accurate mutations.”

This technique will be used to create 30 constructs that target 20 genes that negatively affect wheat grain size and weight. From these, the University of California-Davis Plant Transformation Facility, through a service contract, will produce 150 first-generation transgenic plants, and the South Dakota State researchers will then identify which ones yield larger seeds. One graduate student and a research assistant will work on the project.

“The end products are not genetically modified organisms,” Li emphasized. “When we transfer one of the CRISPR genes to wheat, it’s transgenic. That then produces a mutation in a different genomic region. When the plants are then self-pollinated or back-crossed, the transgene and the mutation are separated.”

The researchers then screen the plants to select those that carry the desired mutations. “This is null transgenic,” Li said, noting that USDA has approved this process in other organisms. Yang also used this technique to develop bacterial blight-resistant rice.

As part of the project, the researchers will transfer the mutations into durum wheat. Ultimately, these yield-increasing mutations, along with the markers to identify the traits, can be transferred to spring and winter wheat.

First step taken toward epigenetically modified cotton

Credit: Chen Laboratory/Univ. of Texas at Austin. Upland cotton (right) evolved from the hybridization of two ancestral species, one similar to G. raimondii (left) and one similar to G. arboreum (middle). Selection and domestication yielded longer, higher quality fibers than either ancestor.
Upland cotton (right) evolved from the hybridization of two ancestral species, one similar to G. raimondii (left) and one similar to G. arboreum (middle). Selection and domestication yielded longer, higher quality fibers than either ancestor.

America's cotton farmers are facing low prices and unpredictable weather patterns, but new research led by Z. Jeffrey Chen at The University of Texas at Austin might offer a break for the industry. His team has taken the first step toward a new way of breeding heartier, more productive cotton through a process called epigenetic modification.

In recent decades, scientists have discovered that many traits in living things are controlled not just by their genetics — what's written in the code of their DNA — but also by processes outside their DNA that determine whether, when and how much the genes are expressed, known as epigenetics.

This opens up the possibility of entirely new ways to breed plants and animals. By selectively turning gene expression on and off, breeders could create new lineages without altering the genes.

In this latest study, the researchers identified more than 500 genes that are epigenetically modified between wild cotton varieties and domesticated cotton, some of which are known to relate to agronomic and domestication traits. This information could aid selection for the kinds of traits that breeders want to alter, like fiber yield or resistance to drought, heat or pests. For example, varieties of wild cotton might harbor genes that help them respond better to drought but have been epigenetically silenced in domesticated cotton.

"This understanding will allow us to supplement genetic breeding with epigenetic breeding," said Chen, the D.J. Sibley centennial professor of plant molecular genetics in the department of molecular biosciences. "Since we know now how epigenetic changes affect flowering and stress responses, you could reactivate stress-responsive genes in domesticated cotton."

In a study published in the journal Genome Biology, Chen and his colleagues at Texas A&M University and Nanjing Agricultural University in China reported that they produced a "methylome" — a list of genes and genetic elements that have been switched on or off through a natural process called DNA methylation. A methylome provides important clues for biotechnology firms that want to adapt crops through epigenetic modification. This methylome covers the most widely grown form of cotton, known as Upland or American cotton; its cousin, Pima or Egyptian cotton, and their wild relatives, while showing how these plants changed over more than a million years.

"Knowing how the methylome changed during evolution and domestication will help bring this technology one step closer to reality," Chen said.

Cotton is the top fiber crop grown in the world, with more than 150 countries involved in cotton export and import. Annual business revenue stimulated by cotton in the U.S. economy exceeds $100 billion.

The researchers discovered that changes in DNA methylation occurred as wild varieties combined to form hybrids, the hybrids adapted to changes in their environment and, finally, people domesticated them. One key finding is that the change that allowed cotton to go from a plant adapted to grow only in the tropics to one that grows in many parts of the world was not a genetic change but an epigenetic one.

The researchers found that wild cotton contains a methylated gene that prevents it from flowering when daylight hours are long — as they are in the summer in many places, including the U.S. and China. In domesticated cotton, the same gene lost this methylation, allowing the gene to be expressed, an epigenetic change that allowed cotton to go global.

Chen said modern breeders can modify gene methylation with chemicals or through modified gene editing technologies such as CRISPR/Cas9. These methods could allow breeders to make targeted changes to a plant's epigenome and create new breeds with improved traits. Epigenetic breeding could be applied to not just cotton but many other major crops as well, such as wheat, canola, coffee, potatoes, bananas and corn.

Conagra selling Wesson to J.M. Smucker Co.

Conagra Brands Inc. announced this week that it has entered into a definitive agreement with The J.M. Smucker Co. to divest the Wesson oil brand. The transaction, valued at approximately $285 million, is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of any applicable regulatory approvals.

"We continue to reshape our portfolio and focus our resources on priorities that support Conagra's business strategy and drive value creation for shareholders," said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Conagra Brands. "We believe The J.M. Smucker Co. will be a terrific steward of the Wesson brand."

Wesson is an iconic edible oil in the U.S., with product offerings including vegetable, canola, corn and blended oils. Under the terms of the agreement, Conagra will continue to make the products sold under the Wesson brand and provide certain other transition services for up to one year following the close of the transaction.

Conagra selling Wesson to J.M. Smucker Company

Conagra Brands, Inc. (CAG) announced this week that it has entered into a definitive agreement with The J.M. Smucker Company (JMS) to divest the Wesson oil brand. The transaction, valued at approximately $285 million, is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of any applicable regulatory approvals.

"We continue to reshape our portfolio and focus our resources on priorities that support Conagra's business strategy and drive value creation for shareholders," said Sean Connolly, president and chief executive officer of Conagra Brands. "We believe The J.M. Smucker Company will be a terrific steward of the Wesson brand."

Wesson is an iconic edible oil in the U.S., with product offerings including vegetable, canola, corn and blended oils. Under the terms of the agreement, Conagra will continue to make the products sold under the Wesson brand and provide certain other transition services for up to one year following the close of the transaction.

NRC report links brucellosis transmission to elk, not bison

SBTheGreenMan/iStock/Thinkstock Bison in Yellowstone

Brucellosis is a nationally and internationally regulated disease of livestock with significant consequences for animal health, public health and international trade.

An increase in brucellosis cases in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) has alarmed cattle and domesticated bison producers and spurred new scientific analyses of the factors involved; the National Research Council (NRC) has just completed its scientific analysis and published the report "Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area."

In the report, NRC said recent evidence indicates that elk are the main transmitters of the disease, and thus, control efforts should focus on limiting transmission from elk to livestock.

This report lays out various options that could be applied to control the disease and prevent its spread.

In cattle, the primary cause of brucellosis is Brucella abortus, a zoonotic bacterial pathogen that also affects wildlife, including bison and elk.

As a result of the Brucellosis Eradication Program that began in 1934, most of the country is now free of bovine brucellosis. However, the GYA, where brucellosis is endemic in bison and elk, is the last known B. abortus reservoir in the U.S.

The GYA is home to more than 5,500 bison that are the genetic descendants of the original free-ranging bison herds that survived in the early 1900s and is home to more than 125,000 elk, whose habitats are managed through interagency efforts, including the National Elk Refuge and 22 supplemental winter feeding grounds maintained in Wyoming.

In 1998, NRC issued a report, "Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area," that reviewed scientific knowledge regarding B. abortus transmission among wildlife — particularly bison and elk — and cattle in the GYA. Since the release of the 1998 report, brucellosis has re-emerged in domesticated cattle and bison herds in that area.

Given the scientific and technological advances in two decades since that first report, NRC's new report explores the factors associated with the increased transmission of brucellosis from wildlife to livestock, the recent apparent expansion of brucellosis in non-feeding ground elk and the desire to have science inform the course of any future actions to address brucellosis in the GYA.

The report is available at www.nap.edu/catalog/24750/revisiting-brucellosis-in-the-greater-yellowstone-area.

According to the report summary, the report's authoring committee — chaired by Dr. Terry F. McElwain, regents professor emeritus at Washington State University — determined that, based on the genetic lineage of B. abortus in the GYA ecosystem, elk are recognized as the primary host for brucellosis and have been "the major transmitter of B. abortus to cattle." The committee noted that all recent cases of brucellosis in GYA cattle are traceable genetically and epidemiologically to transmission from elk, not bison.

Based on this conclusion, the committee listed several recommendations to focus brucellosis control efforts in the GYA on approaches that reduce transmission from elk to cattle and domesticated bison.

Furthermore, the committee said "no single management approach can independently result in reducing risk to a level that will prevent transmission of B. abortus" among wildlife and domesticated species, because doing so misses the "bigger picture of a highly interconnected ecosystem and a broader understanding of various factors affecting risk that has evolved since 1998," when the first NRC report was issued.

 

NRC report links brucellosis transmission to elk, not bison

Brucellosis is a nationally and internationally regulated disease of livestock with significant consequences for animal health, public health and international trade.

An increase in brucellosis cases in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) has alarmed cattle and domestic bison producers and spurred new scientific analyses of the factors involved, which the National Research Council (NRC) has just completed with the publication of the report "Revisiting Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area."

In the report, NRC said recent evidence indicates that elk are the main transmitters of the disease, and, thus, control efforts should focus on limiting transmission from elk to livestock.

This report lays out various options that could be applied to control the disease and prevent its spread.

In cattle, the primary cause of brucellosis is Brucella abortus, a zoonotic bacterial pathogen that also affects wildlife, including bison and elk.

As a result of the Brucellosis Eradication Program that began in 1934, most of the country is now free of bovine brucellosis. However, the GYA, where brucellosis is endemic in bison and elk, is the last known B. abortus reservoir in the U.S.

The GYA is home to more than 5,500 bison that are the genetic descendants of the original free-ranging bison herds that survived in the early 1900s, and home to more than 125,000 elk whose habitats are managed through interagency efforts, including the National Elk Refuge and 22 supplemental winter feeding grounds maintained in Wyoming.

In 1998, NRC issued a report, "Brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area," that reviewed the scientific knowledge regarding B. abortus transmission among wildlife — particularly bison and elk — and cattle in the GYA.

Since the release of the 1998 report, brucellosis has re-emerged in domestic cattle and bison herds in that area.

Given the scientific and technological advances in two decades since that first report, NRC's new report explores the factors associated with the increased transmission of brucellosis from wildlife to livestock, the recent apparent expansion of brucellosis in non-feedground elk and the desire to have science inform the course of any future actions in addressing brucellosis in the GYA.

The report is available at www.nap.edu/catalog/24750/revisiting-brucellosis-in-the-greater-yellowstone-area.

According to the report summary, the report's authoring committee — chaired by Dr. Terry F. McElwain, regents professor emeritus at Washington State University — determined that based on the genetic lineage of B. abortus in the GYA ecosystem, elk are recognized as the primary host for brucellosis and have been "the major transmitter of B. abortus to cattle." The committee noted that all recent cases of brucellosis in GYA cattle are traceable genetically and epidemiologically to transmission from elk, not bison.

Based on this conclusion, the committee listed several recommendations to focus brucellosis control efforts in the GYA on approaches that reduce transmission from elk to cattle and domesticated bison.

Furthermore, the committee said "no single management approach can independently result in reducing risk to a level that will prevent transmission of B. abortus" among wildlife and domesticated species, because doing so misses the "bigger picture of a highly interconnected ecosystem and a broader understanding of various factors affecting risk that has evolved since 1998" when the first NRC report was issued.