Feed efficiency of lactating Holstein cows was not as repeatable across diets as within diet over subsequent lactation stages
A focus on feed efficiency reproducibility and repeatability of dairy cows fed different diets over the lactation stage.Recommended by Alberto Atzori based on reviews by Ioannis Kaimakamis, Angela Schwarm and 2 anonymous reviewers
The topic of feed efficiency is under discussion in the scientific community and several studies pointed out that lactation stage has to be accounted for when estimates of feed efficiency are carried out, especially for genetic ranking of animals and their performances, as highlighted by Li et al. (2017). Other researchers applied a latin square design to test dietary effects across lactation (Ipharraguerre et al. 2002) but this approach cannot be followed out of experimental conditions and particularly does not allow, nowadays, to valorize precision livestock farm data to get phenotypic information from individual animals at farm level.
The current manuscript by Fischer, et al. (2022a) describes an experimental trial in which cows were first fed a high starch diet-low fibre then switched over to a low starch diet-high fibre and individually monitored over time. Data were analyzed with the objective to investigate effects within diets and across diets. Since all cows went through the same sequence at the same time it was not possible to completely separate the confounding effect of lactation stage and diet as stated by the authors. However, this manuscript adds methodological discussions and opens research questions especially to the matter of repeatability and reproducibility of feed efficiency of individual animals over the lactation stage. These variables are fundamental to evaluate nutritional traits and phenotypic performances of dairy cows at farm level, as highlighted by a paper of the same first author (Fischer, et al. 2022b) dealing to reproducibility and repeatability with a similar approach. My opinion is that this manuscript gives the opportunity to enlarge the scientific discussions on the calculation of repeatability and reproducibility of feed efficiency of individual animals over time. In particular, as in this study, specific mathematical approaches need to be carried out with the final goal to analyze and valorize precision livestock farm data for cow phenotyping and to propose new methods of feed efficiency evaluations. It also needs complete databases carried out under experimental conditions. In fact it has to be considered that this manuscript makes available to the scientific community all the data and the R code developed for data analysis giving the opportunity to replicate the calculations and propose new advancements in the feed efficiency evaluations of dairy cows.
Fischer A, Gasnier P, Faverdin P (2022a) Feed efficiency of lactating Holstein cows was not as repeatable across diets as within diet over subsequent lactation stages. bioRxiv, 2021.02.10.430560, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.10.430560
Fischer A, Dai X, Kalscheur KF (2022b) Feed efficiency of lactating Holstein cows is repeatable within diet but less reproducible when changing dietary starch and forage concentrations. animal, 16, 100599. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.ANIMAL.2022.100599
Ipharraguerre IR, Ipharraguerre RR, Clark JH (2002) Performance of Lactating Dairy Cows Fed Varying Amounts of Soyhulls as a Replacement for Corn Grain. Journal of Dairy Science, 85, 2905–2912. https://doi.org/10.3168/JDS.S0022-0302(02)74378-6
Li B, Berglund B, Fikse WF, Lassen J, Lidauer MH, Mäntysaari P, Løvendahl P (2017) Neglect of lactation stage leads to naive assessment of residual feed intake in dairy cattle. Journal of Dairy Science, 100, 9076–9084. https://doi.org/10.3168/JDS.2017-12775
Detecting dairy cows' lying behaviour using noisy 3D ultrawide band positioning data
A novel method to monitor lying behaviour of dairy cows by combining noisy spatial positioning data, time-series segmentation based on statistical changepoints and machine learning classification algorithmRecommended by Eliel Gonzalez-Garcia based on reviews by Kareemah Chopra and John Fredy Ramirez Agudelo
Using on-farm sensors in dairy farming is known to help decision makings and farmer objectives in the monitoring and potential improvement of animal behaviour, health and production performance. However, in indoor positioning systems, data interpretation is complicated by the inaccuracy and noise in the time series, missing data caused not only by sensor failure or the harsh and changing farm environments in which they operate, but also by the animals' specific physiology itself. Thus, working with spatial data has proven challenging mainly due to their enormous heteroscedasticity, which depends on multiple factors such as the cow, the time of the day, the behaviour, factors interfering with the sensor system, etc., for which we cannot account mathematically. Applying purely black-box approaches generally results in insufficient robustness, interpretability and generalisability.
With this work, Adriaens et al. (2022) developed a relatively simple and new methodology to monitor the lying behaviour of dairy cows by using noisy spatial positioning data, while combining time-series segmentation based on statistical changepoints and a machine learning classification algorithm. The two-step methodology identifies lying behaviour using an ultra-wide band indoor positioning system. Getting-up or lying-down events were indicated by the accelerometers. Overall classification and lying behaviour prediction performance was above 91% in independent test sets, with a very high consistency across cow-days. The robustness of the algorithm was demonstrated by the fact that both the cow identity-based split and the time-based split performed equally well.
The article represents an original contribution for advancing the state of the art in the automated quantification of lying behaviour in dairy cows, aiming to monitor health or animal welfare issues. Future research must be considered however to validate the performance of the model when using different position-measuring technologies, in other farm settings and over a longer period of time.
Adriaens I, Ouweltjes W, Pastell M, Ellen E, Kamphuis C. 2022. Detecting dairy cows' lying behaviour using noisy 3D ultra-wide band positioning data. Zenodo, 6627251, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.6627251
Decreasing the level of hemicelluloses in sow's lactation diet affects the milk composition and post-weaning performance of low birthweight piglets.
Varying the hemicellulose content in the diet of lactating sows highlights the importance of early-life interventions for improving health and performance of small piglets during the post-weaning periodRecommended by Florence Gondret based on reviews by Hélène Quesnel and Myriam Grundy
One of the key questions in pig industry nowadays is how health and performance of piglets can be improved by sow nutrition and milk composition. The levels of dietary fibers in sow’s gestation diet have positive effects observed on the litters. However, the composition of dietary fibers and the organization of polysaccharides within the cell wall in the different plants determine their physicochemical properties and, thereby, their behaviour in the gut of the sows and the subsequent physiological response of the animals. Hemicelluloses are polysaccharides constituents of the cell walls of plants, which are fermented in the gut to produce volatile fatty acids (VFA). These VFA can serve as energy source for milk synthesis and can thereby influence the development of suckling piglets. Palumbo and colleagues (1) proposed an original experimental design to compare diets with similar fiber contents but different hemicellulose levels, thanks to varying the sources of fibers used in the dietary formulations. Effects were studied on performance and health of lactating sows and their piglets during suckling period and until post-weaning. The dietary treatments had no effect on the total number of piglets weaned and, consequently, on litter weight at weaning. Milk yield was not influenced by the dietary treatments, but milk composition (lactose content, copper and threonine proportions) was affected by the level of hemicellulose in the maternal diets. With a decreasing hemicellulose level in sow diet, milk lactose content linearly decreased, whereas the copper and threonine contents linearly increased. There was no effect on piglet performance during the lactation period. During the second week of post-weaning, a quadratic increase in the incidence of diarrhoea and the number of days with diarrhoea for suckling piglets was observed with decreasing hemicellulose level in diet. Interestingly, the observed effects were partly different for piglets born with a low body weight. Indeed, there was a linear decrease in the incidence of diarrhoea and days with diarrhoea with decreased hemicellulose level in the maternal diet for those piglets, together with increased growth performance from birth to two weeks post-weaning. The authors postulated that the improved growth performance and the lower incidence of diarrhoea observed in small piglets during post-weaning period may be related to the increased abundance of threonine and copper and increased concentration of total VFA in milk of sows fed a diet with reduced hemicellulose levels. This study confirms the importance of early-life interventions to improve the post-weaning development and health of this sub-population of piglets.
(1) Palumbo F, Bee G, Trevisi P, and Girard M. (2022). Decreasing the level of hemicelluloses in sow's lactation diet affects the milk composition and post-weaning performance of low birthweight piglets. agriRxiv 2022.00116, ver 4 (R3), peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.31220/agriRxiv.2022.00116
Impact of pre-breeding feeding practices on rabbit mammary gland development at mid-pregnancy.
Managing the feeding of rabbits to improve metabolic efficiencyRecommended by Giuseppe Conte based on reviews by Marion Boutinaud, Davi Savietto and 1 anonymous reviewer
A correct execution of feeding plan for growing rabbit decreases the possibility of post-weaning digestive disorders, thus enhancing the feed efficiency in the animals. However, a limitation of feed daily quantity is required between 10 weeks of age and the first artificial insemination. This limitation causes energy deficiency with a consequent reduction in fertility. Beauvais et al. (2022) studied the impact of feed restriction strategies in female rabbits. Four feed restriction strategies were applied in two distinct periods (post-weaning and puberty) and evaluated by different physiological parameters (growth rate, metabolic profiles, reproductive parameters and mammary gland development). In the first part of the paper, the authors evaluated the association between weight slopes and feeding strategies in the late post-weaning and peripartum period in the four groups. As revealed by the authors, a significant difference was observed during the late post-weaning period, which remained significant between the pubertal and fattening phases. Probably these differences are related to the restriction feeding pattern. The results indicated that restrictive feeding changes in the first step of post-weaning period is associated with a significant difference in body weight. This difference occurs from the third week of diet, highlighting the high sensitivity of growing rabbit to nutrition during the post-weaning period.
In the second part of the paper, the authors evaluated the expression of genes involved in the lipid metabolism. During the mid-pregnancy, was revealed a significant higher expression of lipogenic genes, which may be considered as useful markers for the mammary epithelial development in less restrictive strategies during early life period.
The results proposed by Beauvais et al. (2022) enlighten the important role played by the feeding conditions of young female rabbits in the early life rearing. In particular, this activity provides specific recommendations for optimizing lactation and thus preventing neonatal mortality of the offspring. Moreover, the authors provide indications about the effect of feeding strategies on the mammary development and gene expression with absolute consequences on the development of offspring. Mammary lipid metabolism affects the milk profile and therefore the growth performance of the young animals.
Hue-Beauvais C, Bebin K, Robert R, Gardan-Salmon D, Maupin M, Brun N, Aujean E, Jaffrezic F, Simon S, Charlier M, Le Provost F (2022). Impact of pre-breeding feeding practices on rabbit mammary gland development at mid-pregnancy. biorXiv, 2022.01.17.476562, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2022.01.17.476562
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 cattleRecommended by Marcos Marcondes 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. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5783960.
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. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2009-1932.
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. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731113000888.
Guarnido-Lopez P, Ortigues-Marty I, Taussat S, Fossaert C, Renand G, Cantalapiedra-Hijar G (2021). Plasma proteins Δ15N vs. plasma urea as candidate biomarkers of between-animal variations of feed efficiency in beef cattle: Phenotypic and genetic evaluation. Animal 15:100318. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.animal.2021.100318.
The impact of housing conditions on porcine mesenchymal stromal/stem cell populations differ between adipose tissue and skeletal muscle
Housing conditions affect cell populations in adipose and muscle tissues of pigsRecommended by Hervé Acloque based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers
The adaptability of livestock to changing environments is based in particular on their genetic characteristics but also on the farming conditions to which they are subjected. However, this last point is poorly documented and little is known about its contribution to environmental challenges. The study by Quéméner and colleagues  addresses this question by assessing the effect of two hygiene conditions (good vs poor) on the distribution of cell populations present in adipose and muscle tissues of pigs divergently selected for feed efficiency .
The working hypothesis is that degraded housing conditions would be at the origin of an hyper stimulation of the immune system that can influence the homeostasis of adipose tissue and skeletal muscle and consequently modulate the cellular content of these tissues. Cellular compositions are thus interesting intermediate phenotypes for quantifying complex traits. The study uses pigs divergently selected for residual feed intake (RFI+ and RFI-) to assess whether there is a genetic effect associated with the observed phenotypes.
The study characterized different stromal cell populations based on the expression of surface markers: CD45 to separate hematopoietic lineages and markers associated with the stem properties of mesenchymal cells: CD56, CD34, CD38 and CD140a. The authors observed that certain subpopulations are differentially enriched according to the hygiene condition (good vs poor) in adipose and skeletal tissue (CD45-CD56-) sometimes with an associated (genetic) lineage effect. This pioneering study validates a number of tools for characterizing cell subpopulations present in porcine adipose and muscle tissue. It confirms that housing conditions can have an effect on intermediate phenotypes such as intra-tissue cell populations. This pioneering work will pave the way to better understand the effects of livestock systems on tissue biology and animal phenotypes and to characterize the nature and function of progenitor cells present in muscle and adipose tissue.
 Quéméner A, Dessauge F, Perruchot MH, Le Floc’h N, Louveau I. 2022. The impact of housing conditions on porcine mesenchymal stromal/stem cell populations differ between adipose tissue and skeletal muscle. bioRxiv 2021.06.08.447546, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.08.447546
 Gilbert H, Bidanel J-P, Gruand J, Caritez J-C, Billon Y, Guillouet P, Lagant H, Noblet J, Sellier P. 2007. Genetic parameters for residual feed intake in growing pigs, with emphasis on genetic relationships with carcass and meat quality traits. Journal of Animal Science 85:3182–3188. https://doi.org/10.2527/jas.2006-590.
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 cowsRecommended by Aurélien Madouasse 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.https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17826
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. https://dx.doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5215797
Microbial colonization of tannin-rich tropical plants: interplay between degradability, methane production and tannin disappearance in the rumen
Ruminal microbial degradation of tannin-rich tropical plants and methane productionRecommended by Antonio Faciola based on reviews by Todd Callaway and Srinivasan Mahalingam
Rira et al. (2022) evaluated ruminal degradation of tropical tannins-rich plants and the relationship between condensed tannins disappearance and microbial communities. I found this study relevant because a major limitation for tropical plants utilization by ruminants is their potential reduced nutrient digestion. In this study, authors used leaves from Calliandra calothyrsus, Gliricidia sepium, and Leucaena leucocephala, pods from Acacia nilotica and the leaves of Manihot esculenta and Musa spp., which were incubated in situ in the rumen of dairy cows. An in vitro approach was also used to assess the effects of these plants on ruminal fermentation. They observed that hydrolysable and free condensed tannins from all plants completely disappeared after 24 h incubation in the rumen. Disappearance of protein-bound condensed tannins was variable with values ranging from 93% for Gliricidia sepium to 21% for Acacia nilolitica. This demonstrated some potential for selection and improvements in protein digestion. In contrast, fibre-bound condensed tannins disappearance averaged ~82% and did not vary between plants, which was remarkable. The authors noted that disappearance of bound fractions of condensed tannins was not associated with degradability of plant fractions and that the presence of tannins interfered with the microbial colonisation of plants. Each plant had distinct bacterial and archaeal communities after 3 and 12 h of incubation in the rumen and distinct protozoal communities at 3 h. This suggests a great deal of specificity for microbial-plant interactions, which warrants further evaluation to consider also animal contributions to such specificity. Adherent communities in tannin-rich plants had a lower relative abundance of fibrolytic microbes, notably Fibrobacter spp. Whereas, archaea diversity was reduced in high tannin-containing Calliandra calothyrsus and Acacia nilotica at 12 h of incubation. Concurrently, in vitro methane production was lower for Calliandra calothyrsus, Acacia nilotica and Leucaena leucocephala although for the latter total volatile fatty acids production was not affected and was similar to control. Finally, the study demonstrated that the total amount of hydrolysable and condensed tannins contained in a plant play a role governing the interaction with rumen microbes affecting degradability and fermentation. The effect of protein- and fibre-bound condensed tannins on degradability is less important. The major limitation of the study is the lack of animal validation at this stage; therefore, further studies are warranted, especially studies evaluating these plants in vivo. Furthermore, mechanisms associated with plant-microbial specificity, the role played by the host, and more data on nutrient utilization and gas production should be investigated. Nonetheless, this work show interesting microbial colonization and specific plant-microbial relationships that are novel in the ruminal environment.
Rira M, Morgavi DP, Popova M, Maxin G, Doreau M (2022). Microbial colonization of tannin-rich tropical plants: interplay between degradability, methane production and tannin disappearance in the rumen. bioRxiv, 2021.08.12.456105, ver. 3 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.08.12.456105
Quantifying growth perturbations over the fattening period in swine via mathematical modelling
An innovative modelling approach to enhance the quality of the quantification of pig resilience during the entire fattening period: Towards an individual pig resilience indexRecommended by Mohammed Gagaoua based on reviews by Arata Hidano, Ludovic Brossard and 2 anonymous reviewers
The identification of reliable estimates of growth potential and resilience over the fattening period in large populations is a challenge in actual swine breeding conditions. To overcome this drawback, the study by Revilla et al. 2021 in the frame of precision livestock farming aimed to propose an innovative modelling approach, in addition to previous studies from the same group (Revilla et al. 2019), to enhance the quality of the quantification of pig resilience during the entire fattening period.
The authors developed a model that quantifies an “individual pig resilience indicator” based on longitudinal data, for instance body weight, recorded routinely by a commercially available automatic feeding system. Revilla and co-workers considered in their study two mainly commercialised pure pig breeds these being Piétrain including Piétrain Français NN Axiom line (Pie NN) free from halothane-sensitivity (ryanodine receptor gene, RYR1) and Piétrain Français Axiom line positive to this gene and Duroc. Therefore, the authors investigated the potential of improving resilience of swine livestock through inclusion for the first time of an “individual pig resilience indicator” in breeding objectives. A database of 13 093 boars (approximately 11.1 million of weightings) belonging to Pie (n= 5 841), Pie NN (n = 5 032) and Duroc (n= 2 220) finished under ad libitum feeding, high sanitary level and controlled temperature was used to develop robust models.
The authors checked the three datasets (for each pig breed) independently to explore the variation and gaps (a data pre-treatment procedure) to ensure high quality data for the modelling approach. Then, they applied the Gompertz model and linear interpolation on body weight data to quantify individual deviations from the expected production, allowing the creation of the ABC index. For the modelling, the authors applied a two-step mathematical model approach by first establishing a theoretical growth curve of each animal, while the second step aimed to build the actual perturbed growth curve. The heritability of the index ranged from 0.03 to 0.04, with similar heritability between Piétrain and Duroc breeds. Moreover, moderate genetic relationships were computed between the proposed index and important phenotypic traits in swine production likely BF100: backfat thickness at 100kg; LD100: longissimus dorsi thickness at 100kg; ADG: average daily gain during control and FCR: feed conversion ratio.
Developing models able to capture perturbations during the fattening period is a challenge in swine breeding industry. The model and methodology proposed by the authors in this innovative work (although preliminary and with low heritabilities) would help overcome such limit and facilitate a real implementation at large scale in pig breeding system. The modelling approach further offers an opportunity to develop a selection criterion to improve resilience in swine breeding conditions.
To explore the full potential of this modelling approach, a larger database and other factors such as breed, behaviour and feeding behaviour of the animals, rearing practices, management and environment conditions, age… etc. are worthy to consider. In the future, more in depth measurements of behaviour that can be computed for example using computer vision should be desirable to increase the robustness of the proposed model.
Revilla, M., Friggens, N.C., Broudiscou, L.P., Lemonnier, G., Blanc, F., Ravon, L., Mercat, M.J., Billon, Y., Rogel-Gaillard, C., Le Floch, N. and Estellé, J. (2019). Towards the quantitative characterisation of piglets’ robustness to weaning: a modelling approach. Animal, 13(11), 2536-2546. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1751731119000843
Revilla M, Lenoir G, Flatres-Grall L, Muñoz-Tamayo R, Friggens NC (2021). Quantifying growth perturbations over the fattening period in swine via mathematical modelling. bioRxiv, 2020.10.22.349985, ver. 5 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.10.22.349985
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 Rowland Raymond Kao 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. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.10.197426
Modelling the impact of the macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis on rumen microbial fermentation and methane production
Understanding the mechanisms behind natural bioactive compounds that can potentially reduce methane production in anaerobic conditions. A case study of Asparagopsis taxiformisRecommended by Luis Tedeschi based on reviews by Alberto Atzori, Henk van Lingen and 2 anonymous reviewers
Naturally occurring compounds that can reduce methane production in anaerobic conditions have been studied for quite some time as feasible approaches to mitigate methane production in ruminant animals, especially those of commercial importance. Asparagopsis taxiformis (red algae) and Dictyota bartayresii (brown algae) are effective inhibitors of methane synthesis under in vitro anaerobic fermentation systems (Machado et al., 2014) likely because of their high concentration of secondary metabolites that are toxic to the typical rumen microbiota, including protozoa. In addition to phytoplankton (Palmer and Reason, 2009), Asparagopsis contains a high concentration of haloform compounds (e.g., bromoform, chloroform) while Dictyota has a high concentration of isoprenoid terpenes. Despite the economic and biological impact of diverse phytochemicals on reducing methane production in ruminant animals (Tedeschi et al., 2021), haloform compounds’ environmental impact and safety, in particular, are still unclear. In the present study, Munõz-Tamayo and collaborators (2021) listed relevant literature about the impact of A. taxiformis on ruminal methane production.
Concurrent to the understanding of mechanisms and biology behind the reduction of ruminal methane, mathematical models can lead the way to enhance the effectiveness of feeding A. taxiformis under commercial applications. Thus, in the present study, Munõz-Tamayo and collaborators (2021) sought to develop a mathematical model to understand the rumen fermentation changes in vitro experimentation containing extract of A. taxiformis by adapting a previously documented model by Muñoz-Tamayo et al. (2016).
Modeling development, calibration, and evaluation steps should be independent of each other, requiring complete, distinct, and separate databases (Tedeschi, 2006). However, in rare circumstances where such requirements cannot be met because data availability is scarce, the cross-validation technique, when possible, should be considered to assess data dispersion’s effects on model adequacy. In other situations, clear reasoning for failing to do so must be addressed in the paper. In the present paper, Munõz-Tamayo and collaborators (2021) explained the limitations in their modeling efforts were primarily due to the lack of ideal data: “experiments with simultaneous dynamic data of bromoform, volatile fatty acids, hydrogen, and methane.” Regardless of the availability of ideal data, improvements in the conceptual model are warranted to include amino acids and branched-chain fatty acids fermentation dynamics in the rumen and the fluctuations in ruminal pH.
Machado L, Magnusson M, Paul NA, Nys R de, Tomkins N (2014) Effects of Marine and Freshwater Macroalgae on In Vitro Total Gas and Methane Production. PLOS ONE, 9, e85289. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0085289
Muñoz-Tamayo R, Chagas JC, Ramin M, Krizsan SJ (2021) Modelling the impact of the macroalgae Asparagopsis taxiformis on rumen microbial fermentation and methane production. bioRxiv, 2020.11.09.374330, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by PCI Animal Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.11.09.374330
Muñoz-Tamayo R, Giger-Reverdin S, Sauvant D (2016) Mechanistic modelling of in vitro fermentation and methane production by rumen microbiota. Animal Feed Science and Technology, 220, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2016.07.005
Palmer CJ, Reason CJ (2009) Relationships of surface bromoform concentrations with mixed layer depth and salinity in the tropical oceans. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 23. https://doi.org/10.1029/2008GB003338
Tedeschi LO (2006) Assessment of the adequacy of mathematical models. Agricultural Systems, 89, 225–247. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2005.11.004
Tedeschi LO, Muir JP, Naumann HD, Norris AB, Ramírez-Restrepo CA, Mertens-Talcott SU (2021) Nutritional Aspects of Ecologically Relevant Phytochemicals in Ruminant Production. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.628445
Accuracy of predicting chemical body composition of growing pigs using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
Accurate predictions of chemical composition of pigs for a wide range of body weights: no longer a myth!Recommended by Florence Gondret based on reviews by Mathieu Monziols and 1 anonymous reviewer
Assessing body or carcass composition in growing pigs is essential to refine nutritional models, select for specific traits and evaluate pork products. The gold standard methods are dissection and chemical measurements, which are time-consuming and invasive ways to obtain the data. Different teams have tested dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA), especially for determining total and regional body composition of fat, soft lean tissues and bone minerals [1-3]. The DEXA measurements are quick, non-invasive, precise, and operator independent. However, the instruments from different manufacturers are unique in implementation so that it is difficult to obtain and share generalized equations. In addition, the validity and accuracy of the measures when applied to pigs having very different composition have been scarcely addressed.
The present manuscript shows that carcass analysis by DEXA can be used to predict empty body chemical composition, and it provides accuracy values for the content in single nutrients (protein, lipids, Ca, P). The body weight range used to generate differences in body composition is very large (20 to 100 kg), which is important when studying pigs along growth. Moreover, regression equations within weight classes (20, 60 and 100 kg) show no important biases, with the exception for body fat especially at the earliest growth stages. Limitations of the technique are the needs of anesthesia when applied to living pigs, and of standardizing the positions of body, carcass and cuts when applied to living or dissected pigs. Another originality of the manuscript is the comparison of the obtained calibrations with previously published prediction models, showing that the differences do not preclude the possibility to use a single model when built from a meta-analysis of the different data. Taken together, this work offers good perspectives to refine nutritional models by inputs from rapidly analyzed body chemical composition and to monitor body and carcass composition in several pigs for genetics applications.
 Mitchell AD., Scholz AM., Pursel VG., and Evock-Clover CM. (1998). Composition analysis of pork carcasses by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Journal of Animal Science. 76(8), 2104-14. https://doi.org/10.2527/1998.7682104x
 Marcoux M., Bernier JF., and Pomar C. (2003). Estimation of Canadian and European lean yields and composition of pig carcasses by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Meat Science. 63(3), 359-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0309-1740(02)00094-3
 Kipper M., Marcoux M., Andretta I., and Pomar C. (2018). Repeatability and reproducibility of measurements obtained by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry on pig carcasses. Journal of Animal Science, 96(5), 2027-2037. https://doi.org/10.1093/jas/skx046 "
Determining insulin sensitivity from glucose tolerance tests in Iberian and Landrace pigs
Iberian pigs: more than excellent ham!Recommended by Jordi Estellé based on reviews by 2 anonymous reviewers
Iberian pigs represent a treasured resource that allows the maintenance of their “montanera” traditional breeding system and, thus, contributes to the socioeconomic sustainability of the rural areas in the south-western regions of Iberian Peninsula. While the excellence of Iberian meat products is widely recognized, the idea of using Iberian pigs as biomedical models is currently emerging. Interestingly, due to the particular fatty acid metabolism of this porcine breed, Iberian pigs have been proposed as models for type 2 diabetes (Torres-Rovira et al. 2012) or obesity-related renal disease (Rodríguez et a. 2020).
In the present manuscript, Rodríguez-López et al. provide further insights on the particularities of “obese” Iberian pigs by comparing their insulin sensitivity in a glucose tolerance test with that of commercial “lean” Landrace pigs. The authors compared four Iberian pigs with five Landrace pigs in an intense time-series following an intra-arterial glucose tolerance test and measuring insulin, glucose, lactate, triglycerides, cholesterol, creatinine, albumin and urea plasma levels. Several of these parameters showed significant differences between both breeds, with some of them being compatible with an early stage of insulin resistance in Iberian pigs. These results are relevant from an animal production perspective, but provide also further evidence for considering the Iberian pigs as a suitable biomedical model for obesity-related disorders.
 Torres-Rovira, L., Astiz, S., Caro, A., Lopez-Bote, C., Ovilo, C., Pallares, P., Perez-Solana, M. L., Sanchez-Sanchez, R., & Gonzalez-Bulnes, A. (2012). Diet-induced swine model with obesity/leptin resistance for the study of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The Scientific World Journal, 510149. https://doi.org/10.1100/2012/510149
 Rodríguez, R. R., González-Bulnes, A., Garcia-Contreras, C., Elena Rodriguez-Rodriguez, A., Astiz, S., Vazquez-Gomez, M., Luis Pesantez, J., Isabel, B., Salido-Ruiz, E., González, J., Donate Correa, J., Luis-Lima, S., & Porrini, E. (2020). The Iberian pig fed with high-fat diet: a model of renal disease in obesity and metabolic syndrome. International journal of obesity, 44(2), 457–465. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-019-0434-9 "
OneARK: Strengthening the links between animal production science and animal ecology
When scientific communities intertwineRecommended by Pauline Ezanno based on reviews by Rowland Raymond Kao, Arata Hidano and 1 anonymous reviewer
Scientific research can be seen by some as a competitive territory: competition of opinions, concepts, publications, competition for funding. Fortunately, it is above all a territory of sharing and cross-fertilization of ideas. It is gradually becoming a territory of productive interdisciplinary collaborations, despite persistent resistance to making borders more permeable . At the crossroads of worlds, many challenges must be met for communities to understand each other, to be able to communicate with one another, and to benefit mutually from scientific interactions .
Delphine Destoumieux-Garzon and co-authors  propose to stimulate a single Animal Research Kinship (OneARK) to promote the crossing of the scientific communities in animal production and animal ecology. These two communities share many concepts and methods, which, while they are based on marked specificities (natural versus artificial systems), also and above all have common points that need to be explored more closely. Seven concepts of shared interest to improve the resilience and sustainability of animal population systems were explored by the authors: selection, system viability, system management, animal adaptability, inter-individual diversity in systems, agroecology, and animal monitoring.
This foundation stone paves the way for a finer integration between these two communities, which are close and yet distant, and which are slowly getting to know, understand, and recognize each other.
 Ledford, H. (2015). How to solve the world’s biggest problems. Nature, 525, 308–311. doi: 10.1038/525308a
 Knapp, B., Bardenet, R., Bernabeu, M. O., Bordas, R., Bruna, M., Calderhead, B., … Deane, C. M. (2015). Ten simple rules for a successful cross-disciplinary collaboration. PLoS Computational Biology, 11(4), e1004214. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1004214
 Destoumieux-Garzón, D., Bonnet, P., Teplitsky, C., Criscuolo, F., Henry, P.-Y., Mazurais, D., … Friggens, N. (2020). OneARK: Strengthening the links between animal production science and animal ecology. Ver 6 Peer-Reviewed and Recommended by PCI Animal Science. doi: 10.5281/zenodo.3632731
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 productionRecommended by Luis Tedeschi 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  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 . 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  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 .
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  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.
 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
 Hoffman, P. C. (1997). Optimum body size of Holstein replacement heifers. Journal of Animal Science, 75(3), 836–845. doi: 10.2527/1997.753836x
 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
 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
 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
 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
 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."
Lactation curve model with explicit representation of perturbations as a phenotyping tool for dairy livestock precision farming.
Developing smart fitting algorithms to identify random perturbations in time-series dataRecommended by Luis Tedeschi based on reviews by Alberto Atzori, Jennifer Spencer and 1 anonymous reviewer
The ability to adequately characterize the lactation curve of livestock is important not only to ensure proper nutrition of the lactating animal but, among many other benefits, it can assist in diagnosing the incidence of diseases, predicting the quantity of milk production, and comparing animals within the herd for managerial strategies such as culling. Eventually, such smart fitting algorithms can lead to improved genetic selection of more productive animals after genetic-unrelated noises are removed from the data, systematically.
The manuscript by Ben Abdelkrim et al. developed and explained an algorithm to detect perturbations in lactation curves of dairy goats. Researchers have been interested in accurately describing lactation curves since the early-1960s. Johansson  proposed a nonlinear decay function, Nelder  described an inverse polynomial, and Wood  proposed the incomplete gamma function to describe milk production of dairy cows. Unfortunately, many of the lactating animals that yielded lactation curves that did not comply with the typical, expected pattern of milk production were usually discarded and, until then, efforts to address this lack of adherence were not conducted. The recommended manuscript provides a different perspective in which rather than discarding the lactation profile, one can model the perturbations of the lactation curve as an attempt to identify possible problems (e.g., mastitis) and minimize their occurrence. Such an algorithm is important to separate females that show resilient attributes from those females that show sustainable attributes, as per existing definitions proposed by Tedeschi et al. .
The recommended manuscript proposes the Perturbed Lactation Model to explicitly account for multiple perturbations in the time-series milk production in dairy goats. When perturbations occur in biological processes, a typical negative impact is observed in the animal’s response, but on rare occasions, positive impacts can occur. In this case, the animal responds positively to the perturbation (i.e., responsive), and as a result, there is an increase in their output when compared to unperturbed animals. The recommended manuscript only considered negative impacts due to perturbations in the lactation curve of dairy goats. Future modifications should include positive responses due to perturbations. In this case, animals would be “positively responsive” to perturbations, and examples of such behavior include feed intake and growth curves.
 Johansson, I. (1961). Genetic Aspects of Dairy Cattle Breeding. University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL.
 Nelder, J. A. (1966). Inverse polynomials, a useful group of multi-factor response functions. Biometrics. 22 (1):128-141. doi: 10.2307/2528220
 Wood, P. D. P. (1967). Algebraic model of the lactation curve in cattle. Nature. 216 (5111):164-165. doi: 10.1038/216164a0
 Tedeschi, L. O., J. P. Muir, D. G. Riley, and D. G. Fox. (2015). The role of ruminant animals in sustainable livestock intensification programs. Int. J. Sustainable Dev. World Ecol. 22 (5):452-465. doi: 10.1080/13504509.2015.1075441