Program 2 - Housing and husbandry effects on animal welfare

Confinement of animals, even for short periods that may occur during transport and lairage of farm animals, is a controversial issue. The main welfare concerns raised are inappropriate social contact, the inability to exercise and the restricted choice of stimuli for interaction, such as with conspecifics and other features of the physical environment.
The key focus of this program is to further understand the basic welfare requirements of animals in terms of social, spatial, environmental complexity and climatic requirements. Such knowledge is necessary for designing housing systems, even for short periods as may occur during transport and lairage.
 
Development of commercially-viable enrichment programs for group-housed sows

Lead Investigator:                  E. Jongman, Uni Melb

Funding:                                Pork CRC

Commencement date:           2016

Completion date:                   2018

To determine the effects of environmental enrichment in the form of straw, Ridley Block, lucerne hay, wooden block and corn silage vs a control on sow agression, injuries, foraging behaviour and reproductive performance.

Evaluation of the welfare risks and impacts of roping

Lead Investigator:                  E. Jongman, Uni Melb

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Parks Victoria

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2018

This project will develop, implement and report on the outcomes of a framework and protocol for assessing the animal welfare issues, risks and impacts of roping as a management technique for feral horses in the Eastern Alps.

Human enrichment program for breeding sows: proof of concept

Lead Investigator:                  P. Hemsworth, Uni Melb

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Pork CRC

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2018

This experiment is a proof of concept to examine whether or not regular positive human contact is enriching for pigs (i.e., leads to a positive affective state) and facilitates stress resilience. 

Improving lamb survival by optimising lambing density

Lead Investigator:                  L. Kubeil, AgVIC

Funding:                                Australian Wool Innovation

Commencement date:           2016

Completion date:                   2018

This study aims to quantify the effects of flock size and stocking rate on the survival of twin lambs born to Merino or maternal ewes at multiple sites across Australia and New Zealand. Data collected from the Victorian sites will contribute to a larger project which is being conducted across Australia and in New Zealand.

Feeding cool cows

Lead Investigator:                  L. Marett, AgVIC

Funding:                                State Government of Victoria

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2023

This project will investigate nutritional opportunities to alleviate the impacts of hot weather on animal performance, health  and welfareand explore the potential interactions between nutritional and genetic interventions. 

Developing nutritional strategies for early lactation in dairy cattle (First 100 days)

Lead Investigator:                  B. Wales, AgVIC

Funding:                                State Government of Victoria

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2023

This project aims to deliver early lactation feeding strategies for individual cows that increase feed intake and peak milk yield, while minimising the incidence of metabolic diseases. 

Resilient plants for free range chicken meat farms

Lead Investigator:                  C. DeKoning, SARDI

Student:                                  

Funding:                                AgriFutures

Commencement date:           2016

Completion date:                   2019

The main aims are to identify forage plants with increased resilience to chicken activity and determine if chickens access the range more often when provided resilient herbage cover.  Perennial grasses, grazing tolerant lucerne and chicory have been established on the range.

Resilient plants for free range

Lead Investigator:                  C. DeKoning, SARDI

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Australian Eggs

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2020

A three year project: firstly, a series of case study free range farms across different climatic zones with fixed ranges will be studied to see how they maintain vegetation on the range (trees and ground cover); secondly, compile agronomic information on what, how, when to plant on the range; thirdly, "a proof of concept trial" testing whether a fast growing shrub and perennial pasture plant combination sown on the outer range area will attract more hens to utilise this area.  The main output will be a guideline package on the maintenance of range vegetation. 

The welfare of bobby calves in the meat supply chain 

Lead Investigator:                  A. Fisher, Uni Melb

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Strategic Partnership for Animal Welfare Research, Development and Adoption

Commencement date:           2017

Completion date:                   2020

The goal of this  project is to measure the health and welfare status of bobby calves within the supply chain, and to identify variations in calf hydration, glucose levels, and colostral immunity in relation to breed, bodyweight, time off feed and transport distance. The project will then include research on-farm (and onwards in the supply chain) to validate the optimal calf preparation strategies indicated by the initial research. This will provide objective data on industry performance, as well as forming the basis of updated advice to farmers on areas of calf preparation on which to focus for ensuring optimal calf welfare. Together, these outcomes can contribute to a greater resilience of the industry in response to current concerns around calf welfare. 

Can oxytocin nasal spray improve gilt behaviour during the peri-partum period and increase the weaning weight of piglets?

Lead Investigator:                  C. Ralph, SARDI

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Pork CRC

Commencement date:           2016

Completion date:                   2018

Stress during farrowing causes the production of opioids, which inhibit oxytocin release. This study will assess the effectiveness of nasal administration of oxytocin on improving maternal behaviour.

Effect of maternal supplementation with creatine and caffeine prior to farrowing on piglet growth and survival: a commercial study

Lead Investigator:                  W. van Wettere, Uni Adel

Funding:                                Australian Pork Limited

Commencement date:           2016

Completion date:                   2018

Two primary objectives: one, to determine the effects of maternal creatine supplementation (75 / g / day) for five days prior to farrowing on sow and piglet performance under commercial conditions; two, to determine whether there is an additive effect of supplementing sows diets with both creatine and caffeine on sow and piglet performance.  

Characterisation of the welfare and performance responses of calves to disbudding and castration procedures

Lead Investigator:                  A. Fisher, Uni Melb

Student:                                 tba

Funding:                               Walsh Fellowship

Commencement date:           2018

Completion date:                   2021

The PhD Fellowship is a joint research project between Teagasc and the University of Melbourne. This research will deliver practical pain management strategies as a part of standard industry practice at the time of disbudding and castration of calves. 

Human-animal relationships in zoos: Optimising animal and visitor experiences

Lead Investigator:                  P. Hemsworth, Uni Melb

Student:                                  

Funding:                                Australian Research Council

Commencement date:           2014

Completion date:                   2018

Extensive research on human-animal relationships in agricultural and domestic settings shows that human-animal interaction affects animal behaviour and welfare, which in turn affect human attitudes to animals. As conservation and welfare organisations, zoos aim to provide visitors with opportunities to closely interact with animals to improve visitor experience and conservation outcomes, whilst maintaining good animal welfare. Some visitor interactions may be stressful for some animals creating conflict between animal welfare and visitor experience. By determining visitor effects, this project aims to provide zoos with practical animal management and educational strategies to optimise both animal welfare and visitor experience.

 

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