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March 15, 2006 -- Number 11, Volume 6

1. Castration-Induced Vocalization in Domestic Piglets (Journal Article)

Journal article abstract (same information provided in the first link below):

"The surgical castration of male young piglets, Sus scrofa, is a routinely applied procedure in domestic pig production. The various handling and surgery procedures during the castration process evoke a considerable amount of vocalisation thought to be indicators of experienced pain and stress. We analysed complex and single measures of the vocalisation of 19 two-week-old male piglets during three different periods in the castration procedure: a presurgical handling period, the surgical period, and a postsurgical handling period."

"Piglets predominantly responded with high-frequency calls (>1000 Hz) at a maximum level ("all-or-none" strategy). These calls were reliably detected (96.6%) by an automatic stress call monitoring system (STREMODO) using vocal cues of sound production (e.g. formant-like structures) which are thought to be involved in "honest" signalling. Subsequent statistical discrimination analysis based on these vocal cues achieved the significantly best call assignment to the respective handling or surgical periods at the surgical part of the castration procedure (85.2%) meaning that the stress characteristic of the calls was most pronounced in this period. Except for the number of calls all other single vocal measures of the high-frequency vocalisation (call duration, peak frequency, pureness and entropy of the sound) were significantly affected by castration."

"The surgical period was significantly different from the postsurgical handling period in all these measures, but compared to the presurgical handling period it differed only in the pureness and the entropy of the sound. Taken together, the observed changes of acoustical parameters during the surgical period can be interpreted as vocal indicators for experienced pain and suffering. We conclude that a careful analysis of the vocal behaviour of animals may help to gain deeper knowledge of pain, stress and discomfort that an animal perceives. These results deliver further facts for a critical re-evaluation of the current practice of non-anaesthetised castration of piglets."

1. "Castration-Induced Vocalisation in Domestic Piglets, Sus scrofa: Complex and Specific Alterations of the Vocal Quality," Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol 95, p 67, Nov-2005 (Abstract only) (Subscription,

2. Also see: "Welfare of the Neonatal Piglet," Pork Industry Institute, Texas Tech University, and National Pork Board, 2002 ( - Texas Tech University)

2. Long-Term Health and Performance of Calves (From Cattle Network)

Excerpts from Cattle Network article:

"Passive immunity is the transfer of the disease fighting antibodies (immunoglobulins) from mother to calf in the first milk called colostrum. Passive transfer is most efficient in the first 6 hours of life of the baby calf. Successful passive transfer is a result of a sufficient amount of quality colostrum being consumed early enough in the life of a baby calf. Failure of passive transfer can have severe short term and long term effects on cattle productivity."

"Drs. Louis Perino and Tom Wittum, while with the USDA experiment station at Clay Center, Nebraska monitored health events and growth performance in a population of range beef calves in order to identify associations of these factors with passive immune status. Blood samples were collected at 24 hours post-calving from 263 crossbreed calves to determine the amount of passive maternal immunity that had been obtained from colostrum. Growth performance and health events in the study population were monitored from birth to weaning, and after weaning throughout the feeding period."

"The lowest levels of passive immunity were observed among calves that were sick or died prior to weaning. Calves with 'inadequate' passive immunity had a 5.4 times greater risk of death prior to weaning, 6.4 times greater risk of being sick during the first 28 days of life, and 3.2 times greater risk of being sick any time prior to weaning when compared to calves with 'adequate' passive transfer. The risk of being sick in the feedlot was also three times greater for 'inadequate' compared to 'adequate' calves."

"Long-Term Health and Performance of Calves," Cattle Network, 3/10/06

3. USDA Finds Kosher Slaughterhouse Violated Animal Cruelty

Excerpts from New York Times article:

"An internal report from the Agriculture Department has found that one of the nation's leading kosher slaughterhouses violated animal cruelty laws and that government inspectors not only failed to stop the inhumane practices but also took improper gifts of meat from plant managers."

"Also, some of the plant's 10 inspectors made faulty inspections of carcasses, failed to correct unsanitary conditions and were seen sleeping and playing computer games on the job, said the report, by the agency's inspector general. It was provided to The New York Times by the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals."

"Conditions at the plant -- AgriProcessors Inc. of Postville, Iowa -- created a controversy in late 2004, when PETA released a videotape taken clandestinely inside. It showed that after steers were cut by a ritual slaughterer, other workers pulled out the animals' tracheas with a hook to speed bleeding. In the tape, animals were shown staggering around the killing pen with their windpipes dangling out, slamming their heads against walls and soundlessly trying to bellow. One animal took three minutes to stop moving."

"The scenes caused a furor among Jewish organizations around the world. Some accused PETA of promoting anti-Semitic libels that kosher slaughter is torture. But others were angry with AgriProcessors for violating the spirit of religious laws requiring that animals be killed without suffering."

"Inquiry Finds Lax Federal Inspections at Kosher Meat Plant," NY Times, 3/10/06 (Registration)

4. Farm Bureau Releases Publication on Future of U.S. Agriculture

Excerpts from Farm Bureau publication:

"Another change has been the growing concentration of American agriculture. Half of the value of agricultural output in the United States came from just 34,085 farms in 2002. At the same time, more than half of all farms have annual sales of less than $10,000 and generate just over 1 percent of the total value of output for the sector. At the other end, operations with sales in excess of $5 million account for 0.15 percent of all farms, but generate 24 percent of the total value of agricultural output."

"There is significant divergence in the structure of agricultural production today. Farms are becoming either much larger or much smaller. There is a major movement away from the 'middle' in agricultural production. In 1987, the number of farms needed to produce the middle 50 percent of the value of agricultural output (or the difference in numbers between those needed to produce 25 percent and 75 percent of the value of agricultural output) was 270,243 farms. In 2002 that number was down to 139,957. Over the same period of time, the total number of farms in the United States as defined by USDA actually grew by 41,223 operations. The size of operations producing the majority of agricultural output in the country continues to grow. At the same time the number of small farming operations, likely those who do not consider farming their primary occupation, continues to rise."

"Agriculture needs to take control of its own environmental destiny. Farmers and ranchers are some of the best environmental stewards in the world. But because of a growing pile of regulations and legal challenges many producers now view environmental and conservation activists with understandable animosity. Farmers need to be proactive in educating the public about their contributions to habitat, water quality, reduction of soil erosion and all the other enhancements they provide. Producers need to change their relationships with pragmatic, forward-looking conversation groups from adversaries to allies and eventually to clients. Many of these same groups have specific environmental goals and services in mind. Producers need to actively engage with these groups in providing those services and in developing compensation plans to meet these objectives while boosting farm income."

"Making American Agriculture Productive and Profitable (MAAPP)," Farm Bureau, 1/9/06

5. Avian Influenza News Items (Headlines and Links)

1. "As H5N1 Keeps Spreading, a Call to Release More Data," Science Magazine, 3/3/06 (Subscription)

2. "Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America," ABC News, 3/13/06

3. "Industry Caused the Flu; Why Blame Wild Birds?" The Financial Express, 3/6/06

4. OP-ED: "The Price of Cheap Chicken," Los Angeles Times, 3/12/06,1,3871555.story

6. BSE-Related News Items (Headlines and Links)

1. "Western Blot Test Finds BSE-Suspect Cow Positive," Cow-Calf Weekly, 3/13/06

2. "Western Blot Test Confirms Alabama Beef Cow Positive for BSE,", 3/13/06 (Registration)

3. "Statement by USDA Regarding Positive BSE Test Results," USDA, 3/13/06

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Compiled and edited by Hedy Litke and Che Green, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.