Project description:BACKGROUND: Bovine tuberculosis caused by Mycobacterium bovis is a serious and economically important disease of cattle. Badgers have been implicated in the transmission and maintenance of the disease in the UK since the 1970s. Recent studies have provided substantial evidence of widespread and frequent visits by badgers to farm buildings during which there is the potential for close direct contact with cattle and contamination of cattle feed. METHODOLOGY: Here we evaluated the effectiveness of simple exclusion measures in improving farm biosecurity and preventing badger visits to farm buildings. In the first phase of the study, 32 farms were surveyed using motion-triggered infrared cameras on potential entrances to farm buildings to determine the background level of badger visits experienced by each farm. In the second phase, they were divided into four treatment groups; "Control", "Feed Storage", "Cattle Housing" and "Both", whereby no exclusion measures were installed, exclusion measures were installed on feed storage areas only, cattle housing only or both feed storage and cattle housing, respectively. Badger exclusion measures included sheet metal gates, adjustable metal panels for gates, sheet metal fencing, feed bins and electric fencing. Cameras were deployed for at least 365 nights in each phase on each farm. RESULTS: Badger visits to farm buildings occurred on 19 of the 32 farms in phase one. In phase two, the simple exclusion measures were 100% effective in preventing badger entry into farm buildings, as long as they were appropriately deployed. Furthermore, the installation of exclusion measures also reduced the level of badger visits to the rest of the farmyard. The findings of the present study clearly demonstrate how relatively simple practical measures can substantially reduce the likelihood of badger visits to buildings and reduce some of the potential for contact and disease transmission between badgers and cattle.
Project description:Many measures have been proposed to mitigate gaseous emissions and other nutrient losses from agroecosystems, which can have large detrimental effects for the quality of soils, water and air, and contribute to eutrophication and global warming. Due to complexities in farm management, biological interactions and emission measurements, most experiments focus on analysis of short-term effects of isolated mitigation practices. Here we present a model that allows simulating long-term effects at the whole-farm level of combined measures related to grassland management, animal housing and manure handling after excretion, during storage and after field application. The model describes the dynamics of pools of organic carbon and nitrogen (N), and of inorganic N, as affected by farm management in grassland-based dairy systems. We assessed the long-term effects of delayed grass mowing, housing type (cubicle and sloping floor barns, resulting in production of slurry and solid cattle manure, respectively), manure additives, contrasting manure storage methods and irrigation after application of covered manure. Simulations demonstrated that individually applied practices often result in compensatory loss pathways. For instance, methods to reduce ammonia emissions during storage like roofing or covering of manure led to larger losses through ammonia volatilization, nitrate leaching or denitrification after application, unless extra measures like irrigation were used. A strategy of combined management practices of delayed mowing and fertilization with solid cattle manure that is treated with zeolite, stored under an impermeable sheet and irrigated after application was effective to increase soil carbon stocks, increase feed self-sufficiency and reduce losses by ammonia volatilization and soil N losses. Although long-term datasets (>25 years) of farm nutrient dynamics and loss flows are not available to validate the model, the model is firmly based on knowledge of processes and measured effects of individual practices, and allows the integrated exploration of effective emission mitigation strategies.
Project description:Pest regulation by natural enemies has a strong potential to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides in agroecosystems. However, the effective role of predation as an ecosystem service remains largely speculative, especially with minute organisms such as mites.Predatory mites are natural enemies for ectoparasites in livestock farms. We tested for an ecosystem level control of the poultry pest Dermanyssus gallinae by other mites naturally present in manure in poultry farms and investigated differences among farming practices (conventional, free-range, and organic).We used a multiscale approach involving (a) in vitro behavioral predation experiments, (b) arthropod inventories in henhouses with airborne DNA, and (c) a statistical model of covariations in mite abundances comparing farming practices.Behavioral experiments revealed that three mites are prone to feed on D. gallinae. Accordingly, we observed covariations between the pest and these three taxa only, in airborne DNA at the henhouse level, and in mites sampled from manure. In most situations, covariations in abundances were high in magnitude and their sign was positive.Predation on a pest happens naturally in livestock farms due to predatory mites. However, the complex dynamics of mite trophic network prevents the emergence of a consistent assemblage-level signal of predation. Based on these results, we suggest perspectives for mite-based pest control and warn against any possible disruption of ignored services through the application of veterinary drugs or pesticides.
Project description:Background:Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide are harmful gases generated during aerobic/anaerobic bacterial decomposition of livestock manure. We evaluated ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations generated from workplaces at livestock farms and determined environmental factors influencing the gas concentrations. Methods:Five commercial swine farms and five poultry farms were selected for monitoring. Real-time monitors were used to measure the ammonia and hydrogen sulfide concentrations and environmental conditions during the manure-handling processes. Monitoring was conducted in the manure storage facility and composting facility. Information on the farm conditions was also collected through interview and walk-through survey. Results:The ammonia concentrations were significantly higher at the swine composting facilities (9.5-43.2 ppm) than at other manure-handling facilities at the swine and poultry farms, and high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide were identified during the manure agitation and mixing process at the swine manure storage facilities (6.9-19.5 ppm). At the poultry manure-handling facilities, the ammonia concentration was higher during the manure-handling processes (2.6-57.9 ppm), and very low hydrogen sulfide concentrations (0-3.4 ppm) were detected. The air temperature and relative humidity, volume of the facility, duration of manure storage, and the number of animals influenced the gas concentrations. Conclusion:A high level of hazardous gases was generated during manure handling, and some levels increased up to risk levels that can threaten workers' health and safety. Some of the farm operational factors were also found to influence the gas levels. By controlling and improving these factors, it would be possible to protect workers' safety and health from occupational risks.
Project description:We have investigated manure management practices at three farm scales in Chinese pig and poultry production. The concept of ecological rationality was employed to explore empirically how environmental concerns drive adoption of environmental-friendly manure management technologies at different farm scales. The more developed Rudong County in Jiangsu Province and the less developed Zhongjiang County in Sichuan Province were chosen as cases for study of 258 animal breeders. On the contrary to our hypothesis, medium-scale farmers were not always found to be laggards in adoption of manure management technologies. Government ecological rationality played a key role to induce environmental-friendly technology adoption on its own, but also in cooperation with ecologically rational individual or network drivers. Authorities no longer applied their efforts in a conventional command-and-control way, but more in the form of incentives, stimulation, and information to farmers. Individual farmers in general showed low environmental responsibility in relation to manure handling.
Project description:To assess their potential to control poultry red mites (Dermanyssus gallinae), we tested selected predaceous mites (Androlaelaps casalis and Stratiolaelaps scimitus) that occur naturally in wild bird nests or sometimes spontaneously invade poultry houses. This was done under laboratory conditions in cages, each with 2-3 laying hens, initially 300 poultry red mites and later the release of 1,000 predators. These small-scale tests were designed to prevent mite escape from the cages and they were carried out in three replicates at each of three temperature regimes: 26, 30 (constant day and night) and 33-25 °C (day-night cycle). After 6 weeks total population sizes of poultry red mites and predatory mites were assessed. For the temperature regimes of 26 and 33/25 °C S. scimitus reduced the poultry red mite population relative to the control experiments by a factor 3 and 30, respectively, and A. casalis by a factor of 18 and 55, respectively. At 30 °C the predators had less effect on red mites, with a reduction of 1.3-fold for S. scimitus and 5.6-fold for A. casalis. This possibly reflected hen manure condition or an effect of other invertebrates in the hen feed. Poultry red mite control was not negatively affected by temperatures as high as 33 °C and was always better in trials with A. casalis than in those with S. scimitus. In none of the experiments predators managed to eradicate the population of poultry red mites. This may be due to a prey refuge effect since most predatory mites were found in and around the manure tray at the bottom of the cage, whereas most poultry red mites were found higher up in the cage (i.e. on the walls, the cover, the perch, the nest box and the food box). The efficacy of applying predatory mites in the poultry industry may be promoted by reducing this refuge effect, boosting predatory mite populations using alternative prey and prolonged predator release devices. Biocontrol success, however, will strongly depend on how the poultry is housed in practice (free range, cage or aviary systems) and on which chemicals are applied to disinfect poultry houses and to control other pests.
Project description:The prevalence of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL)-producing Escherichia coli (E. coli) is increasing rapidly in both hospital environments and animal farms. A lot of animal manure has been directly applied into arable fields in developing countries. But the impact of ESBL-positive bacteria from animal manure on the agricultural fields is sparse, especially in the rural regions of Tai'an, China. Here, we collected 29, 3, and 10 ESBL-producing E. coli from pig manure, compost, and soil samples, respectively. To track ESBL-harboring E. coli from agricultural soil, these isolates of different sources were analyzed with regard to antibiotic resistance profiles, ESBL genes, plasmid replicons, and enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus (ERIC)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) typing. The results showed that all the isolates exhibited multi-drug resistant (MDR). CTX-M gene was the predominant ESBL gene in the isolates from pig farm samples (30/32, 93.8%) and soil samples (7/10, 70.0%), but no SHV gene was detected. Twenty-five isolates contained the IncF-type replicon of plasmid, including 18 strains (18/32, 56.3%) from the pig farm and 7 (7/10, 70.0%) from the soil samples. ERIC-PCR demonstrated that 3 isolates from soil had above 90% genetic similarity with strains from pig farm samples. In conclusion, application of animal manure carrying drug-resistant bacteria on agricultural fields is a likely contributor to antibiotic resistance gene spread.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Predicting the spatial distribution of pathogens with an environmental stage is challenging because of the difficulty to detect them in environmental samples. Among these pathogens, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is the causative agent of the zoonosis toxoplasmosis, which is responsible for public health issues. Oocysts of T. gondii are excreted by infected cats in the environment, where they may survive and remain infectious for intermediate hosts, specifically rodents, during months to years. The landscape structure that determines the density and distribution of cats may thus impact the spatial distribution of T. gondii. In this study, we investigated the influences of rural settings on the spatial distribution of oocysts in the soil. METHOD: We developed a spatially explicit agent based model to study how landscape structures impact on the spatial distribution of T. gondii prevalence in its rodent intermediate host as well as contamination in the environment. The rural landscape was characterized by the location of farm buildings, which provide shelters and resources for the cats. Specifically, we considered two configurations of farm buildings, i.e. inside and outside a village. Simulations of the first setting, with farm buildings inside the village, were validated using data from previous field studies. Then, simulation results of the two settings were compared to investigate the influences of the farm locations. RESULTS: Model predictions showed a steeper relationship between distance to the nearest farm and infection levels when farm buildings, and thus cats, were concentrated in the same area than when the farms were spread over the area. The relationship between distance to the village center and level of environmental contamination also differed between settings with a potential increased risk for inhabitants when farms are located inside the village. Maps of the risk of soil contaminated with oocysts were also derived from the model. CONCLUSION: The agent-based model provides a useful tool to assess the risk of contamination by T. gondii oocysts at a local scale and determine the most at risk areas. Moreover it provides a basis to investigate the spatial dynamics of pathogens with an environmental stage.
Project description:Parasites and other symbionts are crucial components of ecosystems, regulating host populations and supporting food webs. However, most symbiont systems, especially those involving commensals and mutualists, are relatively poorly understood. In this study, we have investigated the nature of the symbiotic relationship between birds and their most abundant and diverse ectosymbionts: the vane-dwelling feather mites. For this purpose, we studied the diet of feather mites using two complementary methods. First, we used light microscopy to examine the gut contents of 1,300 individual feather mites representing 100 mite genera (18 families) from 190 bird species belonging to 72 families and 19 orders. Second, we used high-throughput sequencing (HTS) and DNA metabarcoding to determine gut contents from 1,833 individual mites of 18 species inhabiting 18 bird species. Results showed fungi and potentially bacteria as the main food resources for feather mites (apart from potential bird uropygial gland oil). Diatoms and plant matter appeared as rare food resources for feather mites. Importantly, we did not find any evidence of feather mites feeding upon bird resources (e.g., blood, skin) other than potentially uropygial gland oil. In addition, we found a high prevalence of both keratinophilic and pathogenic fungal taxa in the feather mite species examined. Altogether, our results shed light on the long-standing question of the nature of the relationship between birds and their vane-dwelling feather mites, supporting previous evidence for a commensalistic-mutualistic role of feather mites, which are revealed as likely fungivore-microbivore-detritivore symbionts of bird feathers.
Project description:The utilization of dairy wastewater for producing algal biomass is seen as a two-fold opportunity to treat wastewater and produce algae biomass, which can be potentially used for production of biofuels. In animal agriculture system, one of the major waste streams is dairy manure that contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. Furthermore, it is produced abundantly in California's dairy industry, as well as many other parts of the world. We hypothesized that flushed manure, wastewater from a dairy farm, can be used as a potential feedstock after pretreatment to grow Chlorella vulgaris biomass and to reduce nutrients of manure. In this study, we focused on investigating the use of flushed manure, produced in a dairy farm for growing C. vulgaris biomass. A series of batch-mode experiments, fed with manure feedstock and synthetic medium, were conducted and corresponding C. vulgaris production was analyzed. Impacts of varying levels of sterilized manure feedstock (SMF) and synthetic culture medium (SCM) (20-100%) on biomass production, and consequential changes in total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorus (TP) were determined. C. vulgaris production data (Shi et al., 2016) were fitted into a model (Aslan and Kapdan, 2006) for calculating kinetics of TN and TP removal. Results showed that the highest C. vulgaris biomass production occurs, when SMF and SCM were mixed with ratio of 40%:60%. With this mixture, biomass on Day 9 was increased by 1,740% compared to initial biomass; and on Day 30, it was increased by 2,456.9%. The production was relatively low, when either only SCM or manure feedstock medium (without pretreatment, i.e., no sterilization) was used as a culture medium. On this ratio, TN and TP were reduced by 29.9 and 12.3% on Day 9, and these reductions on Day 30 were 76 and 26.9%, respectively.