- UMR BIOEPAR, INRAE / Oniris, Nantes, France
- Animal epidemiology, Animal health, Precision livestock farming, Veterinary epidemiology , Veterinary science
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