Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 3 - PROHEALTH (Sustainable intensive pig and poultry production)

Project Context and Objectives:
Rising demand for animal products, an increasing global population as well as global competition have increased level and intensification of animal production. This trend comes at the price of increasing the incidence of production diseases (PD). PD can be defined as 'diseases which tend to persist in animal production systems and, typically, become more prevalent or severe, in proportion to the potential productivity of the system'. They compromise health and welfare, generating inefficiencies which negatively impact on profitability, environmental footprint, and product quality. They may also increase the need to treat the affected animals with antibiotics. The PROHEALTH project aims to develop an understanding of the multi-factorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production and to use this new knowledge to develop, evaluate and disseminate effective management and control strategies.
The PROHEALTH project will address each of the elements in the network of production disease causation. In particular, the specific objectives of the project are to:
• Identify the risk factors for production diseases and establish associations between diseases;
• Explore the role of genetic and environmental factors on neonatal survival and in exerting longer-term developmental influences on health;
• Evaluate the effects of genetic selection for productive traits on susceptibility and identify strategies to mitigate these;
• Determine the role of variation in farm environment on the temporal expression of production diseases;
• Characterise the microbio-immunological changes and identify pathological changes at the molecular level which take place during production diseases in order to develop diagnostic tools;
• Synthesise strategies to reduce the impact of production diseases on a farm and assess the efficacy of improvement strategies in reducing disease prevalence or severity; and
• Identify economically viable and socially acceptable ways to control pathologies, with emphasis on animal welfare implications.
Project Results:
Overall the PROHEALTH project is well on track to achieve all its goals and objectives. As the 5 year project enters its final year, the last experiments and analyses are scheduled to be completed soon and the final conclusions will then be drawn. Already now, an impressive amount of results has been obtained. More specifically, the following work was performed in the different work packages (WP):

WP1: The quantification of time-related effects and associations between different health, welfare and performance parameters was concluded.
Web-based questionnaires for pigs, broiler and layer chickens were used to collect data on biosecurity, management and farm and batch/flick characteristics; their analysis is in progress and already provide information on the risk factors for a number of production diseases.

WP2: The role of sow gestation housing system on piglet viability and immune status has been addressed. In addition, the role of genetics and farrowing management on maternal competence and neonatal vitality has been studied. Work on the potential for adaptation of milk composition to optimise nurse sow fostering protocols during late lactation has been completed and reported. Finally, an investigation on disinfection protocols on bacterial diversity of shells of hatching eggs was carried out and reported on, including recommendations.

WP3: A meta-analysis to identify the most relevant traits to describe animal responses during production diseases was completed and reported. The large experimental programme under this WP has been completed according to plan. It included the investigations into the relationship between genotype and production diseases, and the development of strategies on how to reduce the susceptibility to leg disorders of pigs and poultry selected for high productive outputs. Tissue, blood and faecal samples from the above experimental programme were provided to WP5.

WP4: Daily reception and validation of data arising from a variety of environmental sensors received from a variety of farms has been accomplished. The associations between environmental components and production diseases is in the process of been reported. The experimental programme of determining the role of the microbial environment on the temporal expression of production diseases was completed according to plan and has been reported.

WP5: Identification of specific microbiota in pigs and chickens under different housing conditions and disease status has been completed and reported. Furthermore, micro-array analyses of samples from tissues of pigs and chickens under different housing conditions and disease status have been carried out. The latter is a work in progress.

WP6: A set of large scale interventions on farms for reduction of production diseases of pigs and poultry were developed and launched and they will be completed within the next months.

WP7: The characterisation of the socio-economic impacts of production diseases, including impacts related to animal welfare, ethical considerations, and impacts on costs and efficiency of production on the farm has been completed and reported. A stakeholder survey to identify key health issues and future possibilities in animal health was reported.

Great effort has been made in WP8 to disseminate the results from PROHEALTH as widely as possible: Six editions of the electronic project newsletters were produced and distributed; the last editions are available in multiple European languages. A series of national stakeholder events has been organised in several European countries. A large number of presentations at national and international conferences have been made, including several special PROHEALTH sessions. Several peer-reviewed publications arising from the project have already appeared in the international literature and many more are in preparation or are currently under peer review.
Potential Impact:
The PROHEALTH project will contribute to the understanding of the multifactorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production. It will help to provide effective control strategies to reduce the negative impact on animal health and welfare.

Dissemination activities will encompass all stakeholders in the food chain. PROHEALTH will deliver novel diagnostics for the propensity to develop production diseases and their occurrence, and multifactorial improvement strategies. Ultimately, the results of PROHEALTH will allow the production of better quality products in a welfare friendly manner and improve competitiveness and sustainability of EU pig and poultry systems.

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Reported by

United Kingdom
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