July 15, 2004


 New federal laboratory studies livestock stressors

Posted July 1, 2004

The Agriculture Department's Agricultural Research Service opened a 2,300 sq. ft. Farm Animal Behavior and Well-Being Laboratory June 3 for the study of stress indicators in livestock.

Researchers at the new laboratory in West Lafayette, Ind., also study the relationship between stress and the ability of pathogenic bacteria to establish themselves in animals.

The new facility adjoins a 10,000 sq. ft. laboratory built in 1997 to house ARS' Livestock Behavior Research Unit, which conducts behavioral studies of swine, cattle, and poultry.

Purdue University animal scientists work alongside ARS scientists on the Purdue campus and at the Purdue Animal Science Farm near the main campus.

ARS Acting Administrator Edward B. Knipling said the new laboratory would complement the behavioral studies under way in the animal laboratory to find possible objective measures of animal stress.

"Stress in livestock can lower productivity and possibly increase the risk of contamination from Salmonella and other bacterial pathogens," Knipling said.

Donald C. Lay, PhD, research leader and animal behaviorist at the laboratory, is working on an imaging system to show the movement of Salmonella through live pigs. Dr. Lay and his colleagues are also researching alternative housing for poultry and livestock.

Along with the housing research, the ARS-Purdue team is investigating the possibility of breeding nonaggressive animals to reduce losses caused by stress. This would entail selecting sows whose maternal behavior makes them less likely to injure their newborn pigs—a problem that costs producers more than $600 million annually.