ILVO Newsletter June 2014

A glimpse into ILVO’s news: two research platforms that will adjust ILVO’s course (Genomics and meet@all), results from our food science research (ink migration and antibiotic resistance via biofilms), fascinating new projects to reduce methane emissions starting in the calves’ intenstinal tract, optimal slaughter weight of intact boars (among others), laying hens’ welfare, STEC and CT scans of food. Read all about it here.

New Research Projects

cowLower methane emissions from dairy cattle? Influencing the rumen microbiome of the young calf.
What would happen if the early colonisation with methanogens (the microbes responsible for the production of methane) could be influenced by giving natural feed additives (extruded linseed and essential oils) early in life? Will the adult cow then emit less methane during her lifetime?

fattening pigsSlaughter weight of fattening pigs: how to determine the on-farm economic optimal weight?
Objective and freely accessible information about the optimal slaughter weight of fattening pigs is vitally important for a competitive market for fattening pigs. This new research project measures and calculates the separate figures for sows, intact boars and immunocastrates in terms of how much they eat, what it costs and the associated profit.

chicken's playgroundTrees in the chicken’s playground: does short-rotation coppice make them venture further and go out more often?
Chickens with access to a free-range area actually don’t actually use it much, probably because they feel unprotected against predators and unfavorable weather. This ILVO research project studies what happens when the free range area is sowed with a short-rotation coppice. Will this become a kind of hat trick - extra profit from wood sales, no point-source pollution around the door, and better animal welfare?

broiler welfareThe fast track to evaluating broiler welfare. A practical and cost-effective way to evaluate how Belgian broilers fare.
The existing quality assessment protocols are effective but expensive and take too much time to be used in practice. ILVO went to work to develop whether a reliable welfare score could be built from routinely-gathered data such as that from government inspectors, poultry farmers or slaughterhouses.

GenomicsPopulation genomics at ILVO: new platform for genomics dives deep into genomic diversity
ILVO has introduced a (self-funded) technological platform using Next Generation DNA Sequencing (NGS) technology. ILVO researchers will be able to analyse the genetic composition, biological properties and changes in entire populations of a very diverse nature with an unprecedented resolution.

detection E. coliControl of one of the most feared food pathogens! Intensive identification of human pathogenic Shigatoxin producing Escherchia coli (STEC) in Belgium.
Within the food-related zoonoses (animal diseases that also infect humans), STEC is the fifth most common group in Belgium. In terms of human symptoms, it is one of the most feared food pathogens. In this research project, ILVO searches for an efficient method of detection and isolation.

food microstructuresFood goes under the scanner. Visualising food microstructures using X-ray computed tomography.
For examining the quality of dairy products, baked goods and vegetables and fruit, we leave our old ways behind (using light microscopy, confocal or electron microscopes in two dimensions) and choose X-ray computed tomography (CT), to shed light on the microstructure of the food in question.

Recent Results

printing inkInk from food packaging – does it stay put? In certain situations, nitrosamines were found when foods were heated.
Does the ink component nitrocellulose change into toxic substances when heating printed packaging in the oven or microwave? Yes, sometimes, ILVO researchers have found. Nitrocellulose ink releases significant amounts of NOx into the foil when heated above 90°C. Acrylate can react in certain acid solutions and degrade to its hydrolysis products.

plasmid transferBiofilms and plasmid transfer. Transfer of antibiotic resistance genes during food production and preservation.
ILVO has illustrated the risk of transferring antibiotic resistance via conjugation in biofilms. It is already known that biofilms can contribute to the contamination of food products. Antibiotic resistance dissemination appears to be possible, but minimal when the food safety criteria are respected.

animal welfareA coordinated European animal welfare network.
The EuWelNet project demonstrates various strategies to unite experts on animal welfare into European networks. ILVO’s contribution proves that a network will help the Member States to further the welfare of farm animals in Europe.

sowsisGroup-housed sows: detection and prevention of lameness
Sows that are or become lame during the period of group housing have a slightly higher risk of abortion and a higher change of premature culling. Within this doctoral study, ILVO developed the Sow Stance Information System or “SowSis” force plate that can help to detect lameness.

grazingLimiting the mineral nitrogen surplus at the end of the growing season: Does cutting or grazing work better?
As part of the the European Multisward project ILVO empirically ascertained that cutting was slightly better than grazing. Some soil parameters were significantly influenced.