Adapting the feed, the animal and the feeding techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of monogastric livestock production systems
Adapting the feed, the animal and the feeding techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of monogastric livestock production systems

Detection and characterization of the feed intake response of growing pigs to perturbations

Authors: 
Nguyen Ba, H., Taghipoor, M.; van Milgen, J.
Publication date: 
30 August 2018
Full title: 
Detection and characterization of the feed intake response of growing pigs to perturbations
Publishing information: 
EAAP 2018 69th Annual meeting
Video (YouTube): 
Abstract: 

Improving robustness for farm animals is seen as a new breeding target. However, robustness is a complex trait and not measurable directly. Robustness can be characterized by examining the animal’s response to environmental perturbations. Although the origin of environmental perturbations may not be known, the effect of a perturbation on the animal can be observed, for example through changes in voluntary feed intake. Perturbations such as heat stress and sanitary challenges typically have a negative and transitory effect on the voluntary feed intake. We developed a generic model and data analysis procedure to detect these perturbations, and subsequently characterize the feed intake response of growing pigs in terms of resistance and resilience as elements of robustness when faced with perturbations. We hypothesize that there is an ideal trajectory curve of cumulative feed intake, which is the amount of feed that a pig desires to eat when it is not facing any perturbation. Deviations from this ideal trajectory curve are considered as a period of perturbation, which can be characterized by its duration and magnitude. It is also hypothesized that, following a perturbation, animals strive to regain the ideal trajectory curve. A model based on differential equations was developed to characterize the animal’s response to perturbations. In the model, a single perturbation can be characterized by two parameters which describe the resistance and resilience potential of the animal to the perturbing factor. One parameter describes the immediate reduction in daily feed intake at the start of the perturbation (i.e., a “resistance” trait) while another describes the capacity of the animal to adapt to the perturbation through compensatory feed intake to rejoin the ideal trajectory curve (i.e., a “resilience” trait). The model has been employed successfully to identify the ideal trajectory curve of cumulative feed intake in growing pigs and to quantify the animal’s response to a perturbation by using feed intake as the response criterion. Further developments include the analysis of individual feed intake curves of group-housed pigs that can be exposed to the same environmental perturbing factors to quantify and to compare different pigs.

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