August 7, 2017 a very nice one-day meeting was held in Aarhus (DK) to discuss feather pecking in laying hens and tail biting in pigs. The meeting was a joint initiative of FareWellDock and GroupHouseNet. A Skype4business connection made it possible for about 10 external participants to join the meeting in addition to the 60 delegates present in person.
Opening of the meeting, introduction and networking session,
Anna Valros, Sandra Edwards
9:50-11:00 Theme 1: Mechanisms underlying the link between health and damaging behaviour
Invited speakers: Janicke Nordgreen (pigs), Jerine van der Eijk (poultry)
Mini research seminar
≥ Lisette van der Zande: The estimation of genetic effects of tail damage on weaned pigs and its influence on production traits
≥ Anja Brinch Riber: Link between feather pecking and keel bone damage
≥Mirjam Holinger: Does chronic intermittent stress increase tail and ear manipulation in pigs?
≥Laura Boyle: The effect of removing antibiotics from the diets of weaner pigs on performance of ear and tail biting behaviours and associated lesions
11:00-11:20 Coffee/tea break
11:20-12:20 Theme 1 continues: Group and plenary discussion, Anna Valros
12:20-13:20 Lunch break
13:20-14:30 Theme 2: Predisposing factors for damaging behaviour during early development
Invited speakers: Jo Edgar (poultry) and Armelle Prunier (pigs)
Mini research seminar
≥Ute Knierim: A tool to work on risk factors during rearing for feather pecking in laying hens
≥Elske de Haas, Margrethe Brantsæter & Fernanda Machado Tahamtani: Disrupting availability of floor substrate in the first weeks of life influences feather pecking during rearing and lay – a Dutch and Norwegian approach
≥Anouschka Middelkoop: Effect of early feeding on the behavioural development of piglets around weaning
≥Irene Camerlink: The crooked mind of the commercial pig: can we rectify abnormal biting behaviour by early and later life conditions?
14:30-14:50 Coffee/tea break
14:50-15:50 Theme 2 continues: Group and plenary discussion, Sandra Edwards
15:50 Closing of workshop
Some tweets from the workshop:
Acute lethal aggression is increasingly seen in commercial pig farming, as is excessive neonatal aggression (Irene Camerlink)
About 50 studies link (in-)adequate foraging to injurious feather pecking in poultry (Jo Edgar).
Maternal care strongly influences chick behavioural development (Jo Edgar)
Study: Lots of ear biting on Irish pig farms, up to 50% of pigs; Follow up: Antibiotic use may play a role (both causing & treating) (Laura Boyle).
Feather pecking appears to be linked to keel bone damage (Anja Brinch Riber).
Feather pecking is associated with elevated specific immune response (Jerine van der Eijk).
How does animal nutrition in early life influence feather pecking behaviour in adult birds? Wageningen University & Research and partners have started a project to gain more insight into this topic.
Feather pecking in the layer industry is a growing societal and economic concern, since the 2012 EU-ban on battery cages for laying hens. The upcoming ban on beak trimming may increase the severity of injuries caused by feather pecking, and urges for a solution to this major animal welfare problem eventually resulting in a significant economic loss for the farmer.
A Dutch survey on poultry red mite, which has also been conducted throughout Europe, showed the following results:
At around 80% of the laying-hen farms, red mites were seen. 32% of the
participating farms were able to find the red mites in cracks and crevices; a mild to moderate contamination. At 27% of the farms groups or clusters of mites were visible on the housing system, indicating a serious infection. Main treatments used against red mites were silica products and soaps. Most laying-hen farmers saw a decrease in the number of red mites after treatment, although only 14% of the respondents monitored the red-mite population. Treatments are especially applied when (the first) red mites are visible. Hygiene measures against red mites are mainly taken when the house does not contain laying hens. On average, poultry farmers spent € 0.15 / hen / production period of 73 weeks (min-max; € 0.0005 – € 0.67). It is not possible to draw firm conclusions based on this survey because only 44 farmers responded, i.e. 5% of the total number of Dutch layer farms
Feather pecking is the major welfare issue facing the egg farming industry worldwide. Previous research has found a relationship between cannibalistic behaviour, fluctuating asymmetry of bilateral traits (FA) and body weight in laying hens. As cannibalism is linked to severe feather pecking, it could be suggested that a relationship between feather pecking, FA and body weight also exists. The purpose of this study was to analyse the association between feather pecking behaviour and a) FA, b) body weight and c) comb size in laying hens. Sixty-four laying hens were categorised as feather peckers, victims or control hens based on weekly performance of feather pecking behaviour from age 0–23 weeks and plumage condition at age 23 weeks. After culling at 23 weeks of age, the lengths of ulna, tarsus and middle toe as well as the widths of tarsus and hock were measured twice in each side. Each trait was tested for repeatability, directional asymmetry and antisymmetry. Only the three lengths were considered appropriate for analyses of composite and single-trait FA. Control hens displayed less composite FA (P =0.0005) and less FA of ulna (P =0.0001) than feather peckers and victims. Tarsus asymmetry differed between all categories with victims displaying most, control hens least and feather peckers intermediate levels of asymmetry (P< 0.0001). Victims were also lighter in body weight compared to control hens and feather peckers (P =0.043). No difference was found in comb size between the three categories (P =0.1). The results suggest that feather peckers and victims were exposed to similar levels of negative experiences, causing developmental instability, whereas control hens were less negatively affected than both feather peckers and victims during early life.
The European Commission, DG Sante project aims to improve animal welfare around transport. The project will develop and disseminate Guides to Good and Best Practice for animals transported within Europe and to third countries for slaughter, fattening and breeding. Guides will be developed for cattle, horses, pigs, poultry and sheep transport. The project started in May 2015 and will finish by the end of 2018.
The project is divided into 5 tasks
•Task 1: Collection
Collect and collate appropriate best practices implemented and supported by scientific evidence
•Task 2 and 3: Development
Develop practical guidelines with those that will use it
•Task 4: Dissemination
Disseminate these guidelines through the networks of the main European stakeholder groups involved
•Task 5: Verification
To verify if the new transport guidelines reached the end-users
See the project website for more information (e.g. guides, factsheets and roadshows; available in 8 languages: English, German, French, Greek, Romanian, Polish, Spanish and Italian).
You can also sign up for the newsletter of the Animal Transport Guidelines project.
Small scale, with an eye for tradition and with a holistic view on nature and farm life – surely this doesn’t make biodynamic agriculture as innovative as one might think. British-based layer farmer Hoeberichts will prove you wrong. He protects his free-range organic hens from avian influenza infection, coming from wild birds, by using laser
The laser (Agrilaser Autonomic) is silent and shows effectiveness of 90% to 100% in bird dispersal at farms, which the Dutch company says makes it a viable alternative to the expensive method of installing nets all around the entire poultry farm.
… Read more (Article by Chris McCullough in Poultry World).
Feather pecking, the pecking at or removal of feathers from one bird by another, is a problem in the poultry industry. Elimination of damaging feather pecking from flocks is made especially difficult by the numerous factors that appear to influence its prevalence. This review outlines the various contributors to feather pecking organised around Tinbergen’s four questions on causation, ontogeny, phylogeny and function. There is growing evidence that feather pecking (especially severe feather pecking) is related to foraging motivation and gut function. However, other factors, such as improper early experiences, strain and individual differences and perseveration of the behaviour help explain its continued occurrence, even if the birds are kept in enriched environments. To date, methods of dealing with feather pecking are inadequate and involve welfare concerns of their own and alternate solutions, such as provision of forages, are not usually successful in abolishing feather pecking behaviour. The problems of excessive pelage/plummage removal or redirected oral/foraging related behaviour are not unique to poultry and seem to occur in other species in which foraging and forage intake is important. Between species comparisons of related behaviour patterns may improve our understanding of feather pecking and help to design effective solutions. In order to solve the problem of feather pecking, the factors discussed in this review need to be accounted for or we risk applying ‘band-aid’ solutions, which may appear outwardly to be solving the problem. However, the underlying cause(s) may still be present and the animal’s welfare may still be compromised.