Synergy for preventing damaging behaviour in group housed pigs and chickens


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Overview of the meeting of WG3, Belgrade Serbia, November 2016

The meeting for WG3 was attended by 15 members representing 10 different countries. As not everyone knew each other, Anna (our Chair) kicked off the meeting by getting us all to introduce ourselves and describe our interests and experience. There were a wide range of experiences present; both pig and poultry researchers, veterinarians and animal scientists, and early stage researchers who are starting out, as well as experienced group leaders. The research areas that people worked in were also diverse: as well as live animal research, some of our members worked in the area of environmental monitoring, economics and work in the slaughter-house. This led to some interesting discussions, and opened up plenty of scope for future collaborations.

Following this, group members provided more detailed updates on their current or planned projects. The projects ranged from work investigating differences in the typical behaviour of individuals within large groups, to comparisons of different housing systems, incorporating measures of health, antimicrobial resistance, and feather pecking, to investigating different types of enrichment for pigs. The group came up with some interesting ideas to add value to these projects, as well as ideas for future STSM’s.

We also discussed the deliverables for WG3, and how to proceed so we hit our targets. The first deliverable has already been achieved; Mike Toscano has put together a database of research groups and private sector parties with competence in analysis and prevention of damaging behaviour in pigs and laying hens, which he will keep updated. The rest of the deliverables are mainly concerned with creating a series of documents. There was agreement that aggression be dealt with separately to feather pecking and tail biting behaviours, as they are not thought to be linked. The status of the remaining deliverables is as follows:

  1. A document that describes the relationship between health status, and damaging behaviour in pigs is under preparation, and an outline plan prepared. It is being co-ordinated by Sabine Dippel. After a good discussion about this document we agreed that there was so much information in this area, we could also have….
  2. A paper describing a model describing the mechanisms underlying the interrelationship between damaging behaviour and health, which will incorporate the roles of cytokine activation, tryptophan degradation and damaging behaviour. This model is being developed by Janicke Nordgreen.
  3. A document dealing with terminology and definitions should be placed on the website. This could be developed into a peer-reviewed manuscript, and include contributions from all WG’s
  4. A document that describes standardised methodologies for assessing disease tolerance in pigs is being co-ordinated by Dimitar Nakov and Slavca Hristov. Dimitar presented the provisional outline of the manuscript.
  5. A document describing the relationship between health status, and damaging behaviour in laying hens is being prepared by Virginie Michel and Maryse Guinebretiere.
  6. Two documents summarising the cost effectiveness of strategies to reduce damaging behaviours in pigs and poultry are being prepared by Jarkko. Jarkko outlined his plan, and described the type of information he needs to develop his models.

The meeting was a great step forward in getting the work of WG3 started. Looking forward to more interesting updates and hearing about progress next summer in Skopje!