Purdue University wins $1.4m USDA award to study health issues in cattle and swine

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Dilok Klaisataporn
© GettyImages/Dilok Klaisataporn

Related tags Antibiotics dairy cows ketosis Antibiotic resistance intestinal health digestive function

The US National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NFIA), a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agency, has awarded Purdue University three grants totaling more than $1.4m.

The funds will go towards research focused on generating insights around energy balance in cows, understanding what makes antibiotics so effective and the impact of hormone levels on pig health and growth.

The NFIA provides leadership and funding for programs that advance agriculture-related sciences in the US.

Jon Schoonmaker, associate professor of animal sciences, Purdue University, and six of his colleagues received a four-year, $650,000 grant to learn more about the dietary nontherapeutic antibiotics on intestinal microbial populations, the metabolites the microbes produce, and how the latter impact the intestinal health of cattle.

In recent years, Schoonmaker has researched antibiotic alternatives and their effect on beef production and efficiency. Despite the increasing desire for alternatives to antibiotics, scientists know little about how they interact with bacteria and pathogens to alter intestinal function and integrity.

“This new USDA-funded project will allow me to dig more deeply into what makes current antibiotics so effective,” he said. “It is important because the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in livestock nutrition contributes to antibiotic resistance. Livestock producers want to decrease this impact on human health but need effective replacements to continue efficient production.”

Energy balance in dairy cows

Rafael Neves, assistant professor in Purdue University’s Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, and three colleagues received a two-year, $300,000 grant to identify the relationship of skeletal muscle metabolism with ketosis, a well-known metabolic disorder that afflicts dairy cows soon after giving birth.

“Ketosis is a major metabolic disorder of dairy cows and causes $110m to $330m in annual losses to the dairy industry,” Neves commented.

And yet, little research has examined the role of skeletal muscle in whole-body energy balance in dairy cows that have recently given birth.

Impact of thyroid suppression in swine 

Jonathan Pasternak and John Radcliffe in the Department of Animal Sciences received a three-year, $510,000 grant to understand the non-pathogenic factors that influence thyroid hormones in pigs.

The animal scientists are looking to further understand the cause-and-effect relationship between hormone levels and growth and development.

Pasternak will examine whether other non-pathogenic physiological stressors, such as weaning or transport, similarly affect the thyroid hormone system in pigs.

Understanding the factors that negatively impact thyroid activity in pigs will help the research team develop management practices or treatments to limit the impact of such disruptions on the production system.

Most of the project will be conducted by Pasternak’s lab group, including two new graduate students. Radcliffe will join the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, as chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences on July 1. He will assist with weaning and shipping stress models, along with experiments to better understand the impact of thyroid suppression on digestive function and gut health.

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