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15 Feb 2024
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On-farm hatching and contact with adult hen post hatch induce sex-dependent effects on performance, health and robustness in broiler chickens

The hen, the egg and the chick in conventional and on-farm hatching systems

Recommended by based on reviews by Nicolas Bedere and Anna Olsson

To limit the use of antibiotics in the few days after hatching, it is necessary to improve the robustness of chicks during the early post-hatch period. This can be achieved by ensuring immediate access to feeds, optimizing the implantation and maturation of the microbiota and immune system of each chick, and minimizing exposure of stressors such as transportation. The study conducted by Guilloteau and colleagues (2024) compared the performance and health of chicks raised in conventional hatching systems with those raised in on-farm hatching systems. The authors showed that both systems yielded similar hatching percentage of eggs. Chicks from on-farm hatching systems exhibited higher body weights during the post-hatch period compared to those from conventional hatching, whereas health parameters were not affected by the system. An originality of the study was the examination of the benefits of the presence of an adult hen in hatching systems. The effects on chick traits were interpreted in relation to the hen behavior at hatching and a classification according to maternal or agonistic activities towards the chicks. However, the experimental design did not allow to make statistical correlations between hen behavior pattern and chick traits. Importantly, the presence of a hen decreased the hatching percentage, and this was likely associated with hen aggressiveness in the pen. The presence of the hen deteriorated the quality scores of the chicks in the on-farm hatching system, and increased mortality of chicks at hatching, negatively impacting chick weight gain and feed efficiency during the few days after hatching in both conventional and on-farm hatching systems. Thereafter, the effect of the presence of a hen on chick body weight was different according to the sex of the chicks and the type of hatching system. The presence of a hen did not reduce the parasitic load of the chicks nor improved clinical signs. No specific characterization of the fecal microbiota of the chicks was conducted, preventing the testing whether or not the presence of the hen affected the early implantation and maturation of the chick microbiome. Altogether, the data indicate that on-farm hatching systems are at least equivalent (in terms of health traits, feed efficiency) or even favorable (for faster growth in the early period after hatching) for chicks. Training the hens (considered as foster adults) to the presence of eggs and chicks or selecting hens according to specific activity behavioral patterns could be ways to establish better interactions between hens and chicks. Although the number and type of environmental stressors tested in the experiment differ from those in commercial farms, the article opens new perspectives for alternative hatching and farming practices.


Guilloteau LA, Bertin A, Crochet S, Bagnard C, Hondelatte A, Ravon L, Schouler C, Germain K, Collin A (2024) On-farm hatching and contact with adult hen post hatch induce sex-dependent effects on performance, health and robustness in broiler chickens. bioRxiv, 2023.05.17.541117. ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science.


On-farm hatching and contact with adult hen post hatch induce sex-dependent effects on performance, health and robustness in broiler chickensL. A. Guilloteau, A. Bertin, S. Crochet, C. Bagnard, A. Hondelatte, L. Ravon, C. Schouler, K. Germain, A. Collin<p>To improve the early perinatal conditions of broiler chicks, alternative hatching systems have been developed. On-farm hatching (OFH) with an enriched microbial and stimulating environment by the presence of an adult hen is a promising solution...Animal welfare, Farming systems, Poultry, Veterinary scienceFlorence Gondret2023-05-31 12:56:47 View
29 Jan 2024
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Assessing the potential of germplasm collections for the management of genetic diversity: the case of the French National Cryobank

Exploring Genetic Diversity Management: Unveiling the Potential of Germplasm Collections in the French National Cryobank

Recommended by based on reviews by Roy Costilla and 1 anonymous reviewer

The study by Jacques et al. (2024) addresses a critical concern in the context of genetic diversity erosion in domesticated animal populations.  The research uses data from the cryopreserved resources from the French National Cryobank to manage genetic diversity in livestock species. The authors employ a comprehensive methodology to propose novel biodiversity metrics to characterize the status of genetic diversity of cryopreserved collections including cattle, sheep, goat, horse, donkey, and pig livestock species.  The findings reveal significant variations of genetic diversity at species and breed levels. Breeds with a large commercial distribution had more donors in the collection than local breeds. The authors propose a practical framework for assessing germplasm collections, providing a valuable tool for planning and managing collections at both national and international levels.  The study also highlights the usefulness of the Gini-Simpson and effective donor numbers indices to plan a more efficient sampling, whereas the index of diversity impact can be employed in the selection of the most suitable donors for immediate use, based on pedigree but also using genetic markers. 

In resume, this study makes a significant contribution to the field by offering a framework for the assessment of germplasm collections. Its innovative metrics provide insights that could guide strategic decision-making in planning, managing, and utilizing cryopreserved resources. This research is relevant and can benefit conservationists, and population genetics working towards the preservation and sustainable use of genetic resources in livestock species.


Jacques, A., Duclos, D., Danchin-Burge, C., Mercat, M. J.,  Tixier-Boichard M., Restoux, G. (2024). Assessing the potential of germplasm collections for the management of genetic diversity: the case of the French National Cryobank. bioRxiv 2023.07.19.549644. ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science.




Assessing the potential of germplasm collections for the management of genetic diversity: the case of the French National CryobankAlicia Jacques, Delphine Duclos, Coralie Danchin-Burge, Marie-Jose Mercat, Michele Tixier-Boichard, Gwendal Restoux<p>Through a combination of selective pressure and genetic drift, there has been a notable erosion of genetic diversity in domesticated animal populations. In response, many countries, including France, have developed gene banks in order to conser...Animal geneticsYuliaxis Ramayo-Caldas2023-07-20 19:08:40 View
31 Jul 2023
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The big challenge for livestock genomics is to make sequence data pay

The price of sequencing the livestock genomics

Recommended by based on reviews by Mario Calus and 1 anonymous reviewer

Using sequence data in livestock genomics has often been regarded as a solution to revolutionize livestock breeding (Meuwissen & Goddard, 2010). The main expected benefits were to enhance the accuracy of breeding values, achieve better persistence of the accuracy over generations, and enable across populations or breed predictions (Hickey, 2013). Despite the promised benefits, whole-genome sequencing has not yet been implemented in livestock breeding programs, replacing SNP arrays for routine evaluation.

In this work, Johnsson (2023) thoroughly reviewed the literature regarding the implications of whole-genome sequencing and functional genomics for livestock breeding practice. The author discusses the potential applications and reasons for difficulties in their implementation. The author speculates that the main challenge for making using the sequence data profitable is to overcome the problem of the small dimensionality of the genetic data and proposes three potential ways to achieve this goal. The first approach is better modeling of genomic segments, the second inclusion of undetected genetic variation, and the third use of functional genomic information.  

The paper presents an original and interesting perspective on the current status of the use of sequence data in livestock breeding programs and perspectives for the future. 


Hickey,J.M.,2013.Sequencing millions of animals for genomic selection 2.0. Journal of Animal Breeding and Genetics 130:331–332. 

Johnsson, M., 2023. The big challenge for livestock genomics is to make sequence data pay. arXiv, 2302.01140, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. 

Meuwissen, T., Goddard, M.,2010. Accurate prediction of genetic values for complex traits by whole-genome resequencing. Genetics 185:623–631. 


The big challenge for livestock genomics is to make sequence data payMartin Johnsson<p>This paper will argue that one of the biggest challenges for livestock genomics is to make whole-genome sequencing and functional genomics applicable to breeding practice. It discusses potential explanations for why it is so difficult to consis...Genomics, Genomic selectionMarcin Pszczoła2023-02-03 08:08:39 View
24 May 2022
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Identifying cattle with superior growth feed efficiency through their natural 15N abundance and plasma urea concentration: a meta-analysis.

15N as a marker for feed efficiency in beef cattle

Recommended by based on reviews by Emilio Mauricio Ungerfeld and 1 anonymous reviewer

Identifying individuals with a more remarkable feed efficiency may positively affect the profitability and sustainability of the beef industry (Cruz et al., 2010; Basarab et al., 2013). However, although most international nutrient requirements systems predict animal feed efficiency, intake data is usually unavailable at the farm level, and ranking animals based on efficiency might be challenging. In this sense, using differences in the occurrence of isotopic N between animal and diet (Δ15Nanimal-diet) might become a natural biomarker to determine feed efficiency at the farm level. This methodology was firstly demonstrated by Guarnido-Lopez et al. (2021). In the present study by Cantalapiedra-Hijar et al. (2022), the authors evaluated the extent to which Δ15Nanimal-diet can be used as a marker for feed efficiency in beef animals. For this, a meta-analysis was conducted using a database including 759 individual records for performance and N isotopic discrimination measured in plasma or muscle (Δ15Nanimal-diet; n = 749) and plasma urea concentration (n = 659). The database was composed of 37% Charolais, 15% Simmental, and 40% of beef crossbreds. The results confirmed that Δ15Nanimal-diet could discriminate animals with at least 0.10 kg/kg difference in feed efficiency. Furthermore, the Δ15Nanimal-diet marker also successfully discriminated the feed efficiency of two animals from the same contemporary group if they differ by at least 0.06 kg/kg of FCE. However, when trying to predict feed efficiency, using the two candidate biomarkers did not improve estimates. Lastly, when data from biomarkers were combined with performance data, improvement in the predictions was observed. Nonetheless, the present results warrant more studies to evaluate the use of Δ15Nanimal-diet as a biomarker for feed efficiency since it could be used not only for feed efficiency discrimination but also in genetic selections.



Cantalapiedra-Hijar G, Morel I, Sepchat B, Chantelauze C, Miller GA, Duthie CA, Ortigues-Marty I, Dewhurst RJ (2022). Identifying cattle with superior growth feed efficiency through their natural 15N abundance and plasma urea concentration: A meta-analysis. Zenodo, 5783960, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer community in Animal Science.

Cruz GD, Rodríguez-Sánchez JA, Oltjen JW, Sainz RD (2010). Performance, residual feed intake, digestibility, carcass traits, and profitability of Angus-Hereford steers housed in individual or group pens. J. Anim. Sci. 88:324-329.​.

​Basarab JA, Beauchemin  KA, Baron VS, Ominski KH, Guan LL, Miller SP, Crowley JJ  (2013). Reducing GHG emissions through genetic improvement for feed efficiency: effects on economically important traits and enteric methane production. Animal 7:303-315.​.

​Guarnido-Lopez P, Ortigues-Marty I, Taussat S, Fossaert C, Renand G, Cantalapiedra-Hijar G  (2021). Plasma proteins Δ​15N vs. plasma urea as candidate biomarkers of between-animal variations of feed efficiency in beef cattle: Phenotypic and genetic evaluation. Animal 15:100318.​​​​​​​​​​


Identifying cattle with superior growth feed efficiency through their natural 15N abundance and plasma urea concentration: a meta-analysis.Gonzalo Cantalapiedra-Hijar, Isabelle Morel, Bernard Sepchat, Céline Chantelauze, Gemma A. Miller, Carol-Anne Duthie, Isabelle Ortigues-Marty, Richard J. Dewhurst<p>The objective of this study was to test two candidate biomarkers of feed efficiency in growing cattle. A database was built using performance data from 13 trials conducted with growing heifers, steers and young bulls and testing 34 dietary trea...Physiology, Ruminant nutritionMarcos Marcondes2021-12-07 15:24:15 View
05 Dec 2019
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Effects of feeding treatment on growth rate and performance of primiparous Holstein dairy heifers

Optimizing growth rate of dairy heifers through nutrition to maximize reproduction and production

Recommended by based on reviews by Emilio Mauricio Ungerfeld and 2 anonymous reviewers

The idea of altering the growth rate of replacement heifers to improve reproductive and productive indicators of dairy cattle is not new. In the late 1970s, Gill and Allaire [1] indicated that the first parturition between 22.5 to 23.5 months of age yielded the optimum lifetime performance as long as the heifers had adequate body size [2]. Since 1980s, many studies have been conducted to understand the partitioning of energy between growth and lactation, including the impact of growth rates on the heifer puberty [3] as well as growth and development of the mammary gland [4,5]. The senior author of the recommended study has written previously about this research topic [6].

In the present manuscript, Le Cozler et al. studied the effect of feeding programs to increase the growth rate of late-born heifers to catch up with the growth of those born earlier in the calving season on their reproductive and productive performance. The authors analyzed 217 heifers for three consecutive years, split into three dietary treatments: control (C), accelerated growth rate from birth to 6 months of age (ID1), or accelerated growth rate from birth to 12 months of age (ID2). In this study, the late-born heifers receiving the ID2 treatment were able to partially reach the bodyweight of the early-born heifers at 24 months of age. In part, the incomplete understanding of the prioritization of the use of energy (and other nutrients) for different physiological stages (e.g., maintenance, growth, lactation, and pregnancy) of the dairy animal [7] undercuts the development of more robust feeding strategies to improve the reproductive and productive performance of the animal. In the recommended study by Le Cozler et al., although there was no impact on reproductive performance among groups, heifers in the group ID2 produced less milk (about 400 kg for the whole first lactation) than heifers in the groups C and ID1, apparently suggesting that energy allocation for growth had priority over that needed for lactation. The question then becomes what would have happened with energy partitioning if energy intake was restricted. Studies like this one are important to shed some light on the prioritization of the use of energy and other nutrients in support of growth, pregnancy, and lactation of dairy animals, and how compensatory growth differs between meat versus dairy growing animals, both physiologically and energetically.


[1] Gill, G. S., & Allaire, F. R. (1976). Relationship of Age at First Calving, Days Open, Days Dry, and Herdlife to a Profit function for Dairy Cattle1. Journal of Dairy Science, 59(6), 1131–1139. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(76)84333-0
[2] Hoffman, P. C. (1997). Optimum body size of Holstein replacement heifers. Journal of Animal Science, 75(3), 836–845. doi: 10.2527/1997.753836x
[3] Cardoso, R. C., Alves, B. R. C., Prezotto, L. D., Thorson, J. F., Tedeschi, L. O., Keisler, D. H., … Williams, G. L. (2014). Use of a stair-step compensatory gain nutritional regimen to program the onset of puberty in beef heifers. Journal of Animal Science, 92(7), 2942–2949. doi: 10.2527/jas.2014-7713
[4] Sejrsen, K., Huber, J. T., Tucker, H. A., & Akers, R. M. (1982). Influence of Nutrition on Mammary Development in Pre- and Postpubertal Heifers1. Journal of Dairy Science, 65(5), 793–800. doi: 10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(82)82268-6
[5] Sejrsen, K., & Purup, S. (1997). Influence of prepubertal feeding level on milk yield potential of dairy heifers: a review. Journal of Animal Science, 75(3), 828–835. doi: 10.2527/1997.753828x
[6] Le Cozler, Y. L., Lollivier, V., Lacasse, P., & Disenhaus, C. (2008). Rearing strategy and optimizing first-calving targets in dairy heifers: a review. Animal, 2(9), 1393–1404. doi: 10.1017/S1751731108002498
[7] Tedeschi, L. O., and D. G. Fox. 2018. The Ruminant Nutrition System: An Applied Model for Predicting Nutrient Requirements and Feed Utilization in Ruminants. (2nd ed.). XanEdu, Acton, MA."

Effects of feeding treatment on growth rate and performance of primiparous Holstein dairy heifersYannick Le Cozler, Julien Jurquet, Nicolas Bedere<p>The objective of this study was to investigate effects of feeding-rearing programs that aim for first calving at 20-27 months (mo) of age on growth, reproduction and production performance of Holstein cows at nulliparous and primiparous stages....Cattle production, Reproduction, Ruminant nutritionLuis Tedeschi2019-09-09 09:22:36 View
09 Feb 2024
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Pig herd management and infection transmission dynamics: a challenge for modellers.

Towards models of infection transmission dynamics

Recommended by based on reviews by Gustavo Machado and 1 anonymous reviewer

Epidemics such as PRRSv-like virus in pig farms has tremendous impact on the competitiveness of swine production. However, its control requires an understanding of the complex interaction between pathogen transmission, disease impact, population dynamics and management. By using mechanistic epidemiological modelling, Sicard et al. (2023) open up a very interesting field of possibilities. This article describes work aimed at assessing the consequences of infections, taking into account the interaction between clinical outcomes and population dynamics. This study shows how this interaction can influence transmission dynamics at the herd level. It highlights the need to further explore this direction, integrating both disease impacts in breeding practices and structural changes in population dynamics, such as pig crossbreeding and grouping methodologies.
The provision of a new tool making it possible to model herd management practices and the transmission of a virus, such as PRRS, in time and space is a major contribution to understanding the dynamics of this category of diseases. It opens up the possibility of being able to represent specific herd structures and evaluate transmission dynamics using real data. This work improves our understanding of disease spread across herds, taking into account herd management.


Sicard V, Picault S, Andraud M (2023) Pig herd management and infection transmission dynamics: a challenge for modellers. bioRxiv, 2023.05.17.541128. ver. 2 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science.






Pig herd management and infection transmission dynamics: a challenge for modellers.Vianney Sicard, Sébastien Picault, Mathieu Andraud<p>The control of epidemics requires a thorough understanding of the complex interactions between pathogen transmission, disease impact, and population dynamics and management. Mechanistic epidemiological modelling is an effective way to address t...Animal epidemiology modelling, Animal health, Bioinformatics, Farming systems, Infectious diseases, Mathematical modelling, Open science, Population dynamics, Veterinary epidemiology Marie-Pierre Letourneau Montminy2023-05-22 15:07:37 View
02 Sep 2021
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A modelling framework for the prediction of the herd-level probability of infection from longitudinal data

Modelling freedom from disease - how do we compare between countries?

Recommended by based on reviews by Arata Hidano and 1 anonymous reviewer

In this paper, Madouasse et al. (2021) present a generalisable Bayesian method for calculating the probability that a herd is free from disease, based on its prior disease status, and using data (herd status over time over a sufficient number of herds to inform the model) and reasonable prior estimates of the sensitivity and specificity of tests being used to determine animal infection status.  Where available, the modelling approach can also include relevant additional risk factors. 

By bringing all these factors together, it allows for most countries to use the same analytical approach on their data, with differences across datasets expressed in terms of the uncertainty around the central estimates. 

Having a single methodology that generates both a central estimate of disease freedom, and uncertainty thus provides the opportunity (given typically available data) to compare the probability of freedom across different systems. This is relevant in terms of the context of trade (since international trade of livestock in many cases depends on disease freedom). It is also important when evaluating, for example, transnational burdens of disease - and with different regulations in place in different countries, this is invaluable and can be used, for example, to assess risks of zoonotic infection including for zoonotic infection emergence. In the BVD example provided, the point is made that, since regular testing would probably pick up infection rapidly, the addition of risk factors is most valuable where testing is infrequent. This emphasizes the advantages of direct incorporation of risk factors into a single modelling framework. 

From a technical point of view, the analysis compares two different packages for the Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) implementation necesary to run the model. They show that, while there are some slight systematic differences, the estimates provided by the two methods are similar to each other; as one method is approximate but substantially more stable and generally much more computationally efficient, this is an important outcome. Both implementations are freely available and  with relevant additional software made similarly available by the authors. This is extremely welcome and should encourage its general adoption across different countries. 

No single model can of course account for everything. In particular, the reliance on past data means that there is an implicit assumption common to all purely statistical methods that the underlying risks have not changed. Thus projections to altered circumstances (changing underlying risk factors or systematic changes in testing or test performance) cannot so easily be incorporated, since these factors are complicated by the dynamics of infection that lie outside the modelling approach. Of course the well known quote from George Box that "all models are wrong" applies here - the generality of approach, statistical robustness and open source philosophy adopted make this model very useful indeed.  

Madouasse A, Mercat M, van Roon A, Graham D, Guelbenzu M, Santman Berends I, van Schaik G, Nielen M, Frössling J, Ågren E, Humphry RW, Eze J, Gunn GJ, Henry MK, Gethmann J, More SJ, Toft N, Fourichon C (2021) A modelling framework for the prediction of the herd-level probability of infection from longitudinal data. bioRxiv, 2020.07.10.197426, ver. 6 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Animal Science.


A modelling framework for the prediction of the herd-level probability of infection from longitudinal dataAurélien Madouasse, Mathilde Mercat, Annika van Roon, David Graham, Maria Guelbenzu, Inge Santman Berends, Gerdien van Schaik, Mirjam Nielen, Jenny Frössling, Estelle Ågren, Roger Humphry, Jude Eze, George Gunn, Madeleine Henry, Jörn Gethmann, Sim...<p>The collective control programmes (CPs) that exist for many infectious diseases of farm animals rely on the application of diagnostic testing at regular time intervals for the identification of infected animals or herds. The diversity of these ...TEST, Veterinary epidemiology Rowland Raymond Kao2020-07-23 08:13:18 View
24 May 2024
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Diversity of performance patterns in dairy goats: multi-scale analysis of the lactation curves of milk yield, body condition score and body weight

Understanding milk and body reserves trajectories and nutrient partitioning in dairy goats through a modelling approach

Recommended by based on reviews by Kristan Reed and 2 anonymous reviewers

The dairy sector is facing an historical period of high milk demand. However, increasing feed prices continually reduces the economic margins for farms. Managerial strategies to increase economical and technical awareness of animal performance, support the decision chain and optimize the use of production inputs are increasingly necessary, especially in goat farms with intensive production systems. Among the scientific goals, there is a particular emphasis on increasing knowledge about nutrition partitioning between milk production and body reserves — a topic that not easily addressed by nutritional models, limiting the attempts at production forecasting. 

The paper by Gafsi et al (2024) presents an interesting approach to studying phenotypic traits and trajectories of goat performance. It assesses the diversity of phenotypic trajectories reflecting functions such as milk production, body weight and condition score. This approaches aims to describe, understand and explore the interactions among biological functions and potential trade-offs of phenotypic trajectories across current and successive lactations. The work significantly contributes to the literature, particularly because previous descriptions of lactation curves relied primarily on mathematical outputs lacking information about the relationship among physiologically related variables. 

The analysis retrieved data from about 1500 goats over more than 20 years and was conducted with a multiscale approach. Data were fitted considering different types of models, including description of perturbations for lactation curves and with multiphasic models for the body weight and body condition score. Synthetic indicators were then estimated with a multivariate approach to define fitted trajectories and changes in performance. 

The association among performance directly refers to nutrient partitioning, and the adaptive response of individual animals refers to nutrient availability and their aptitude to direct the metabolic effort toward milk production. In fact, the research shows that trajectories from the first lactation were often maintained in sequent ones. Positive associations among milk curve perturbations and the individual aptitude to drive nutrients to body reserves were also observed.

The multiscale approach developed in the paper may provide original insights both for describing  animal performance and for ranking individual animals within farm groups. Practically, the method could inform the development of algorithms to support culling policies and individual animal assessments. Additionally, the data are available to the scientific community  for further research and applications. 

I recommend this paper as a methodological example with high replicable approaches for both goats and other dairy species, with significant applicative opportunities at the farm level.


Gafsi N, Martin O, Bidan F, Grimard B, Puillet L (2024) Diversity of performance patterns in dairy goats: multi-scale analysis of the lactation curves of milk yield, body condition score and body weight. Zenodo. 10101318.


Diversity of performance patterns in dairy goats: multi-scale analysis of the lactation curves of milk yield, body condition score and body weightNicolas Gafsi, Olivier Martin, Fabrice Bidan, Bénédicte Grimard, Laurence Puillet<p style="text-align: justify;">In the dairy goat sector, reduced longevity is a key issue leading to higher replacement rates in the herd and a poor dilution of doe rearing costs. There is a need to better understand the determinants of lifetime ...Animal nutrition modelling, Lactation biology , Mathematical modelling, Physiology, Precision livestock farming, Small ruminantsAlberto Atzori2023-11-10 12:20:20 View
07 Feb 2022
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Resilience: reference measures based on longer-term consequences are needed to unlock the potential of precision livestock farming technologies for quantifying this trait

Measuring resilience in farm animals: theoretical considerations and application to dairy cows

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Ian Colditz and 2 anonymous reviewers

Farm animals differ in their ability to respond to the many environmental challenges they face. Such challenges include infectious diseases, metabolic diseases resulting from inadequate coverage of dietary needs, as well as the diverse consequences of climate change. Various concepts exist to characterise the responses of animals to different types of challenges. This article by Friggens et al. (2022) focuses on resilience, providing a conceptual definition and proposing a method to quantify resilience in dairy cows.

The first part of the paper provides a definition of resilience and highlights its differences and relations with the related concepts of robustness, and, to a lesser extent, resistance and tolerance. In essence, resilience is the ability of an animal to bounce back quickly after a challenge of limited duration. On the other hand, robustness is the ability of an animal to cope with conditions that are overall unfavourable. From these conceptual and intuitive definitions, there are several difficulties precluding the design of concrete methods to measure resilience. First, there is some degree of overlap between the concepts of resilience, robustness, resistance and tolerance. Secondly, resilience is a multidimensional concept whereby resilience to a given perturbation does not imply resilience to other types of perturbation, e.g. resilience to a challenge by a specific pathogen does not imply resilience to a nutritional challenge. A further difficulty in the measure of resilience is the fact that different animals may be exposed to challenges that are different in nature and in number. The authors argue that although resilience cannot be measured directly (it should be seen as a latent construct), it is possible to quantify it indirectly through its consequences.

In the second part of the paper, the authors propose a method to quantify resilience of individual dairy cows. The method is based on the premise that resilient animals should be kept longer in their herd than non-resilient animals. The main criterion in the evaluation is therefore the ability of cows to re-calve. Each cow that is calving receives a certain number of points, to  which, in each lactation, bonus points are added for higher milk production and penalty points are removed for each insemination after the first one, for each disease event and for each day of calving interval above some herd specific value. Therefore, cows have a resilience score in each lactation. They also have a lifetime resilience score obtained by summing the scores for all the lactations, that gets bigger as the cow has more calves, and that also takes the age at first calving into account. In a previous study, Adriaens et al. (2020) showed that higher resilience scores were associated with fewer drops in milk yield and more stable activity dynamics.

Starting from theoretical considerations on the notion of resilience, this paper describes a concrete method to quantify animal-level resilience on farm. Such quantification will be useful for breeding and culling decisions. Finally, the general framework to design resilience measures that is presented will be useful to researchers working on the quantification of farm animal resilience using new methods and data sources.



Adriaens I, Friggens NC, Ouweltjes W, Scott H, Aernouts B and Statham J 2020. Productive life span and resilience rank can be predicted from on-farm first-parity sensor time series but not using a common equation,  across farms. Journal of Dairy Science 103, 7155-7171.

Friggens, N.C. , Adriaens, I., Boré, R., Cozzi, G., Jurquet, J., Kamphuis, C., Leiber, F., Lora, I., Sakowski, T., Statham, J., De Haas, Y. (2022). Resilience: reference measures based on longer-term consequences are needed to unlock the potential of precision livestock farming technologies for quantifying this trait. Zenodo, 5215797, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer community in Animal Science.

Resilience: reference measures based on longer-term consequences are needed to unlock the potential of precision livestock farming technologies for quantifying this traitFriggens, N. C., Adriaens, I., Boré, R., Cozzi, G., Jurquet, J., Kamphuis, C., Leiber, F., Lora, I., Sakowski, T., Statham, J. and De Haas, Y.<p style="text-align: justify;">Climate change, with its increasing frequency of environmental disturbances puts pressures on the livestock sector. To deal with these pressures, more complex traits such as resilience must be considered in our mana...Precision livestock farmingAurélien Madouasse2021-08-20 15:34:13 View
27 Jul 2023
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Combining several indicators to assess the effectiveness of tailor-made health plans in pig farms

Evaluating tailor-made health plans in pig farms: a multiple complementary indicators approach

Recommended by ORCID_LOGO based on reviews by Carla Gomes and 1 anonymous reviewer

Tailor-made health plans for farming animals, including pigs, are highly beneficial due to their customized nature, addressing the unique needs of each farm and promoting efficient husbandry practices. However, assessing the effectiveness of individualized approaches can be challenging. Levallois et al. (1) tackled this challenge by evaluating the effectiveness of tailor-made health plans of pig farms based on a systematic biosecurity and herd health audit. The study involved twenty farrow-to-finish pig farms, each receiving specific plans tailored to their specific needs. Compliance with the recommendations was monitored over an eight-month period. In the literature, various studies have delved into specific issues in detail, such as disease incidence (e.g., (2)). However, the authors of this research applied a comprehensive approach through an integrative analysis of multiple complementary indicators to provide an effective evaluation of the changes and health disorders.

The authors' holistic approach to measuring the effectiveness of tailor-made health plans is noteworthy. They employed up to seven methods to identify advantages and limitations, providing valuable insights for applied research and practitioners in the field of farm animals. Additionally, the study's inclusion of diverse farms, ranging from conventional to antibiotic-free and varying in sow breeding numbers (from 70 to 800), demonstrates the flexibility of the proposed approach, accommodating different farming systems.

The study revealed three crucial considerations for future evaluations of tailor-made health plans. Firstly, placing compliance as the primary assessment indicator is a priority. Secondly, it is essential to tailor outcome indicators and monitoring periods according to each farm's specific health disorder. Lastly, a comprehensive understanding of the health disorder's evolution can be achieved through the amalgamation of multiple indicators.

While the study does have limitations, such as the relatively short time window for assessment, the methodological framework and results are promising. Further, the discussion of the results raises several areas worthy of future investigation to improve compliance and address farmers' hesitations towards action (i.e., lack of willingness). More research in this context will be beneficial for veterinarians and practitioners, enhancing their understanding and positively impacting both farmers and animals.

In conclusion, the study underscores the significant impact of tailor-made health plans on promoting positive changes in farm management. Assessing the effectiveness of these plans enables the refinement of new strategies and enhances the overall quality of work in animal production. The study by Levallois et al (1) sheds valuable light on the challenges and potentials of such plans, providing essential insights for pig farming practices. While further research and improvements are necessary, the study strongly emphasizes the pivotal role of individualized approaches in attaining improved farm management and enhancing animal welfare.


1.     Levallois P, Leblanc-Maridor M, Scollo A, Ferrari P, Belloc C, Fourichon C. (2023). Combining several indicators to assess the effectiveness of tailor-made health plans in pig farms. Zenodo, 7789634. ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. 

2.   Collineau L, Rojo-Gimeno C, Léger A, Backhans A, Loesken S, Nielsen EO, Postma M, Emanuelson U, grosse Beilage E, Sjölund M, Wauters E, Stärk KDC, Dewulf J, Belloc C, Krebs S. (2017). Herd-specific interventions to reduce antimicrobial usage in pig production without jeopardising technical and economic performance. Preventive veterinary medicine, 144:167-78. 

Combining several indicators to assess the effectiveness of tailor-made health plans in pig farmsLevallois Pierre, Leblanc-Maridor Mily, Scollo Annalisa, Ferrari Paolo, Belloc Catherine, Fourichon Christine<p style="text-align: justify;">A tailor-made health plan is a set of recommendations for a farmer to achieve and maintain a high health and welfare status. Tailored to each farm, it is intended to be an effective way of triggering change. This st...Animal health, Veterinary scienceMatteo Chincarini2023-03-31 19:02:35 View