Synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group housed pigs and chickens


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Overview of the meeting of WG1, Belgrade Serbia, November 2016

Minutes taken by Bas Rodenburg, report written by Laurence Liaubet

Thursday 10th November 13:30 – 17:00

Nine participants, everyone did a presentation of his lab, topics, skills, and projects. Below title and some key words related to each presentation are given. Some questions were asked before the meeting in November: 

  • What are you aiming for: review paper, or active research collaboration? 
  • What are your own activities in this area? 
  • Current collaborators and their activities? 
  • Datasets that are available for analysis within GroupHouseNet framework? 
  • Connections to other scientists within the GroupHouseNet framework?

Laurence Liaubet (France, INRA, pig, duck). Presentation of the INRA Toulouse lab (GenPhySE) and examples of projects : multi-omics data, piglet survival at birth, divergent lines for stress response (P. Mormède), Deliverable breeding for robustness: combination genetics for breeding + molecular genetics

Laurianne Canario (France, INRA, pig, rabbit). Genetic modelling of complex traits in monogastrics – fine phenotyping, social behavior, adult performance, link to welfare, piglet vitality and survival, dam-piglet interactions, modelling of social interactions, use of PLF / sensor techniques

Marie-José Mercat (France, BIOPORC, pig). Three French breeding organisations (8000 sows), farm phenotyping and sampling, tail biting, feeding behavior, boar taint, skin lesions, genomic selection, genetics and genomics of pig immune capacity

Egbert Knol (Netherlands,Topigs Norsvin, pig). Variance components and GWAS for tail biting and underlying factors, heritabilities of physiological and immunological traits, metabolomics profiling on 500 animals (high, low sampling), Winnipeg 700 sow unit: biters lower frequency of visits to feed station, pen performance, social effects, microbiome

Eduard Murani (Germany, Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology, pig). Genome biology, genetic and epigenetic basis – animal health, adaptation and resource efficiency, immune system, behavior and stress response (HPA axis) and performance (interactions), Phenotypes, Transcriptomes, Epigenome, QTL/GWAS analysis, microbiome analysis, function of genes, immune system, behavior and stress response and performance (interactions), multi-omics data, epigenome, QTL/GWAS analysis, microbiome

Bas Rodenburg (Netherlands, Wageningen University, hens) The PhenoLab Project, validating ultra-wide band tracking with video tracking software to record location, activity and proximity in group housed laying hens, compare laying hen lines selected for and against feather pecking

Katarina Pichova, STSM/WG1, (Slovakia, Institute of Animal Biochemistry and Genetics, hens). She did her mission in Netherland with Bas in October 2016. Comparison of High Feather Pecking line vs. Low Feather Pecking line with Phenolab, behaviour

Lubor Kostal (Slovakia, Institute of Animal Biochemistry and Genetics, hens). Focus on the last reviews on epigenetics in poultry, interplay between stress hormones and epigenetic mechanisms, new tools are needed for phenotyping individual animals and for evaluating epigenetic effects, relation with behaviour and adaptive capacity, key results from Japanese quails, Neurotransmitters

Bram Visser (Netherlands, Hendrix Genetix, hens). Geneticist, interest in phenotyping, layers, turkeys, traditional poultry, swine, aquaculture, interest in precision phenotyping (behavior, disease resistance, individual performance in groups, non-invasive yields – proxy traits, CT scan), Smart ways for accurate phenotyping, Analysis of video images (more powerful than active tags), Biomass estimation from 3D camera’s

Friday 11th November 09:00 – 12:30

Present: Laurence Liaubet (WG Leader), Eduard Murani, Lubor Kostal, Katarina Pichova, Bram Visser, Laurianne Canario, Deborah Piette, Marie-Jose Mercat, Milosevic

Discussion about the three deliverables WG1 (slides Laurence):

1 - Genetics of health and damaging behavior (coord. Laurence Liaubet)

  • Phenotypes that are relevant to practice
  • Separate different forms of damaging behavior automatically
  • Show relevance of phenotypes to breeding (impact)
  • Basic science: more indicators, more detail
  • Combining genomics and sensor technology
  • Combine basic and more applied research
  • Topigs: link to ‘Feed a Gene’ technology
  • Think about clear structure, focus on new approach
  • Combine basic and more applied research
  • Deciphering traits related to robustness, multi-omics (genomic, epigenomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, metabolomic, metagenomics) and physiology (endocrinology, energy, clinical)
  • Genetics/stress response, corticotrope axis/behaviour, performances, imm.system
  • Genetics/development and robustness/behaviour, performances, imm.system
  • Developed/applied automated monitoring technologies
  • Genetics modelling and breeding / robustness
  • Genetics/Pre and post natal development/behaviour
  • Genetics/social interaction/behaviour
  • Link to practice, measurable in group housing, relevant for commercial breeding
  • New phenotypes, molecular vs automated monitoring

2- Transgenerational epigenetics in laying hens (coord. Lubor Kostal)

Epigenetics: many recent reviews, relevant scientists involved, Lubor to contact those interested, limited number of contributors (Fresard et al., 2013; Jensen, 2014; Rodenburg 2014)

Question: new review needed? Link to perinatal deliverable Jo Edgar (WG2)

Link to STSM Elske de Haas (STSM): parental stress related to early-life feather pecking

Separate perinatal effects from true transgenerational epigenetic inheritance

Keep expanding group (maternal hormones, maternal care)

3- Breeding for reduced FP in laying hens (coord. Bas Rodenburg)

Breeding laying hens for better social behavior (Bas)

  • Use of sensor data – link to GxE and selection environment (suggestion Laurianne): prediction on-farm performance
  • Use of genomic information
  • Link German genetic work to neurobiology (Lubor’s group)


  • Bas Rodenburg (WUR) – behaviour, sensor data
  • Esther Ellen (WUR) – quantitative genetics, genomic information
  • Deborah Piette (KU Leuven) – sensor data
  • Jörn Bennewitz (Uni Hohenheim) – quantitative genetics, genomic information (HFP/LFP lines)
  • Jens Tetens (Uni Göttingen) – genetics of functional traits in poultry (HFP/LFP lines)
  • Bram Visser (Hendrix Genetics) – sensor data applied to animal breeding
  • Lubor Kostal, Katarina Pichova (Slovak Academy of Sciences): PhenoLab and underlying biology

Since the meeting, Bas sent a first layout of the review.

Guidelines for contribution: Bas recall the general guidelines

STSMs: Priority will be given for pig deliverable

Training school WG1 2018: Slovakia, Bratislava ( Lubor local organizer:)