NIFA-Funded Projects Advance Animal Welfare in the United States

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Livestock is an important part of the Agriculture in the United States. According to the USDA’s Economic Research Services, farmers’ livestock, dairy and poultry sales account for more than half of US farm cash receipts.

Environmental and management conditions can increase livestock stress and adversely affect their health. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in science-based management practices to help America’s animal agriculture businesses thrive, while advancing research related to good -being and animal welfare.

Last year, NIFA funded more than $6.2 million in grants aimed at advancing research to understand how to better assess farm animal welfare, while identifying and mitigating the negative effects of stressors on farm animals.

A University of California project, “Relief of acute and long-term pain associated with debudding of dairy calveswill explore possible ways to reduce pain in dairy calves, from short-term pain relief to the healing process, and inform best practices in the daily care of dairy calves on farms.

The process of walking pigs from their pens to the trailer often results in increased stress, reluctance to move, and potential injury, especially when they have to climb an unfamiliar ramp into the trailer. North Dakota State University researchers are exploring how early exposure to a ramp will reduce behavioral and physiological indicators of stress, fewer injuries, faster loading and unloading times and improve pig welfare.

Social stress is a critical factor affecting the health and welfare of hens. A project carried out by Agricultural Research Service, Peoria, Illinoisworked on preventing or mitigating social stress in laying hens by developing an animal-friendly method. Researchers concluded that dietary supplementation with probiotics – good bacteria with health benefits – is an alternative method to prevent harmful behaviors and skeletal damage by repairing stress-disrupted functions of gut microorganisms.

Learn more about other animal welfare projects funded by NIFA here.

Top image: Left image of deer. Right image of wild turkey. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.

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