Abstract: In a 1.140 km² study area of the volcanic West Eifel, a comprehensive investigation established the correlation between red wood ant mound (RWA; Formica rufa-group) sites and active tectonic faults. The current stress field with a NW-SE-trending main stress direction opens pathways for geogenic gases and potential magmas following the same orientation. At the same time, Variscan and Mesozoic fault zones are reactivated. The results showed linear alignments and clusters of approx. 3,000 RWA mounds. While linear mound distribution correlate with strike-slip fault systems documented by quartz and ore veins and fault planes with slickensides, the clusters represent crosscut zones of dominant fault systems. Latter can be correlated with voids caused by crustal block rotation. Gas analyses from soil air, mineral springs and mofettes (CO2, Helium, Radon and H2S) reveal limiting concentrations for the spatial distribution of mounds and colonization. Striking is further the almost complete absence of RWA mounds in the core area of the Quaternary volcanic field. A possible cause can be found in occasionally occurring H2S in the fault systems, which is toxic at miniscule concentrations to the ants. Viewed overall, there is a strong relationship between RWA mounds and active tectonics in the West Eifel.
Abstract: It is a difficult task to improve animal production by means of genetic selection, if the environment does not allow full expression of the animal’s genetic potential. This concept may well be the future for animal welfare, because it highlights the need to incorporate traits related to production and robustness, simultaneously, to reach sustainable breeding goals. This review explores the identification of potential genetic markers for robustness within the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPAA), since this axis plays a vital role in the stress response. If genetic selection for superior HPAA responses to stress is possible, then it ought to be possible to breed robust and easily managed genotypes that might be able to adapt to a wide range of environmental conditions whilst expressing a high production potential. This approach is explored in this review by means of lessons learnt from research on Merino sheep, which were divergently selected for their multiple rearing ability. These two selection lines have shown marked differences in reproduction, production and welfare, which makes this breeding programme ideal to investigate potential genetic markers of robustness. The HPAA function is explored in detail to elucidate where such genetic markers are likely to be found.
Abstract: The use of models in the life sciences has greatly expanded in scope and advanced in technique in recent decades. However, the range, type and complexity of models used in farm animal welfare is comparatively poor, despite the great scope for use of modeling in this field of research. In this paper, we review the different modeling approaches used in farm animal welfare science to date, discussing the types of questions they have been used to answer, the merits and problems associated with the method, and possible future applications of each technique. We find that the most frequently published types of model used in farm animal welfare are conceptual and assessment models; two types of model that are frequently (though not exclusively) based on expert opinion. Simulation, optimization, scenario, and systems modeling approaches are rarer in animal welfare, despite being commonly used in other related fields. Finally, common issues such as a lack of quantitative data to parameterize models, and model selection and validation are discussed throughout the review, with possible solutions and alternative approaches suggested.
Abstract: Among land animals, more pork is eaten in the world than any other meat. The earth holds about one billion pigs who deliver over 100 mmt of pork to people for consumption. Systems of pork production changed from a forest-based to pasture-based to dirt lots and finally into specially-designed buildings. The world pork industry is variable and complex not just in production methods but in economics and cultural value. A systematic analysis of pork industry sustainability was performed. Sustainable production methods are considered at three levels using three examples in this paper: production system, penning system and for a production practice. A sustainability matrix was provided for each example. In a comparison of indoor vs. outdoor systems, the food safety/zoonoses concerns make current outdoor systems unsustainable. The choice of keeping pregnant sows in group pens or individual crates is complex in that the outcome of a sustainability assessment leads to the conclusion that group penning is more sustainable in the EU and certain USA states, but the individual crate is currently more sustainable in other USA states, Asia and Latin America. A comparison of conventional physical castration with immunological castration shows that the less-common immunological castration method is more sustainable (for a number of reasons). This paper provides a method to assess the sustainability of production systems and practices that take into account the best available science, human perception and culture, animal welfare, the environment, food safety, worker health and safety, and economics (including the cost of production and solving world hunger). This tool can be used in countries and regions where the table values of a sustainability matrix change based on local conditions. The sustainability matrix can be used to assess current systems and predict improved systems of the future.
Abstract: In most areas of the world, broiler chickens are raised in floor systems, but cage confinement is becoming more common. The welfare of broiler chickens in cages is affected by movement restriction, poor bone strength due to lack of exercise, and prevention of key behavioral patterns such as dustbathing and ground scratching. Cages for broiler chickens also have a long history of causing skin and leg conditions that could further compromise welfare, but a lack of controlled studies makes it difficult to draw conclusions about newer cage designs. Cage environments are usually stocked at a higher density than open floor systems, and the limited studies available suggest that caging may lead to increased levels of fear and stress in the birds. Further, birds reared on the floor appear less likely to harbor and shed Salmonella, as litter may serve as a seeding agent for competitive exclusion by other microorganisms. Cages for laying hens used in egg production have met with substantial opposition due to welfare concerns and caging broiler chickens will likely be subject to the same kinds of social disapproval.
Abstract: Wild female elephants live in close-knit matrilineal groups and housing captive elephants in artificial social groupings can cause significant welfare issues for individuals not accepted by other group members. We document the release of a captive-raised female elephant used in the safari industry because of welfare and management problems. She was fitted with a satellite collar, and spatial and behavioural data were collected over a 17-month period to quantify her interactions with the wild population. She was then monitored infrequently for a further five-and-a-half years. We observed few signs of aggression towards her from the wild elephants with which she socialized. She used an area of comparable size to wild female elephants, and this continued to increase as she explored new areas. Although she did not fully integrate into a wild herd, she had three calves of her own, and formed a social unit with another female and her calf that were later released from the same captive herd. We recommend that release to the wild be considered as a management option for other captive female elephants.