Animal Production Systems

Current Research                                                                                      

Molecular physiology research is leading to intervention therapies to stimulate mammary development in beef cows so that heavier weanling calves are produced. Dairy cows would benefit from similar treatments to produce more milk. Pork and lamb producers may benefit as well because such fundamental aspects of mammary physiology likely apply across species, thus improving profitability in livestock operations.

Initial studies are examining the biology behind poor reproductive performance in pigs when using in vitro production systems.  Currently, non-surgical embryo transfer technology is not developed to the point of industry adaptation.

A study to understand factors that regulate gene expression seeks to identify paths to develop management, feeds or feeding practices that maximize a particular phenotype, such as muscle size or fat content, for producer profit and/or consumer satisfaction and animal health in cattle, sheep and pigs.

Previously, decisions about modifications to cages for laying hens have been made without full information on how cage design can alter hen physiology, especially neurophysiology, cognition and wellbeing. Research is seeking to identify the environmental effects of various cages on the welfare, behavior and physiology of laying hens, with a goal of designing commercial housing systems that address hen welfare.

Ovarian adenocarcinoma is the second most prevalent tumor found in laying hens and is the fifth leading cause of death in women. Research on hens was conducted to find ways to detect, treat and prevent this condition. The chicken is the ideal model for this study because of the large number of ovulations she undergoes during her lifetime. 

Commercial avian infectious respiratory disease has important implications for agricultural production, trade and public health. Research is underway to develop more sensitive and specific animal infectious disease diagnostics. These have the potential to address important economic issues of agricultural production as well as control pathogens that can cause diseases in humans.

Outputs/Outcomes                                                                                  

 Research on modifying milk fat composition in dairy cattle revealed that feeding additional potassium lowers the milk fat percentage. It also identified the processes in rumen lipid metabolism that cause these changes.

Researchers identified the key gene involved in lipogenesis in ruminants and then developed strategies to alter lipogenesis and reduce excess fat deposition. Study results show that specific fatty acids regulate fat deposition, and that dietary supplements containing these specific fatty acids could target excess fat accumulation in meat-producing animals as well as humans.

Research was conducted to develop integrated gastrointestional nematode control methods that decrease reliance on chemical dewormers. A companion study was conducted to develop a forage-based feeding system for year-round grazing that meets nutritional requirements by evaluating the performance of various forages. Results showed that lambs grazing chicory had lower fecal egg counts, increased performance and reduced GIN infections compared to those grazing bermudagrass with protein supplementation.

Research into the veterinary importance of blood-sucking arthropods was initiated because of the threat of economic losses and disease epidemics in domestic animals.  More than 6,600 blood-feeding flies of 54 species in 4 families, predominantly mosquitoes, were collected at three different heights in the state. This suggests that different fly species forage for hosts at different heights, which provides an important basis for monitoring and preventing potential arthropod-borne diseases.

Studies identified the quantity and types of heat-resistant microorganisms present in rendering animal co-product materials. They also proved that traditional microbial enumeration methods are not accurate for use on these products. The microbial ecosystems in raw and rendered animal co-products are extremely complex. More research is needed to develop accurate enumeration methods to ensure pathogen-free products and safe animal feeds.