Animal agriculture is a significant portion of the United States agriculture. According to USDA’s Economic Research Services, farmers’ sales of livestock, dairy, and poultry account for over half of U.S. agricultural cash receipts.
Environmental and management conditions can increase stress in livestock and impair their health. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in science-based management practices geared to help America’s animal agricultural enterprises thrive, while advancing research related to animal welfare and well-being.
Last year, NIFA funded more than $6.2 million in grants aimed to advance research to understand how to better assess well-being in agricultural animals, while also identifying and lessening negative effects of stressors on farm animals.
A University of California project, “Alleviation of Acute and Long-term Pain Associated with Disbudding Dairy Calves,” will study possible ways to reduce pain in dairy calves, from short-term pain relief through the healing process, and will inform best practices in the day-to-day care of dairy calves on farms.
The process of walking pigs from their pens to the trailer often results in heightened stress, a reluctance to move and potential injury, particularly when they are required to walk up 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 swine welfare.
Social stress is a critical factor affecting hen health and welfare. A project completed by Agricultural Research Service, Peoria, Illinois, worked on prevention or alleviation of social stress in laying hens by developing an animal-friendly method. Researchers concluded dietary supplementation of probiotics— good bacteria providing health benefits— is an alternative method to prevent injurious behavior and skeletal damage by repairing stress-disrupted functions of the intestinal microorganisms.
Learn more about additional NIFA-funded animal welfare projects here.
Top image: Left image of deer. Right image of wild turkey. Courtesy of Adobe Stock.