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?
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 taxiformis
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!
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!
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 intertwine
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 production
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 data
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