The livestock sector is working on sustainability and this includes healthy, robust animals. As the emphasis in animal health shifts from treatment to prevention, fewer antibiotics and other medicines are needed. The experts at Wageningen Livestock Research investigate various aspects of preventive health, such as a healthy childhood phase of animals and good nutrition.
A healthy mother and youth
The juvenal phase is crucial for the rest of life in both humans and animals. Some effects even play a role before birth. Children of women who were pregnant in the hunger winter (1944), demonstrably more often suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease in later life. Such epigenetic effects and programming due to environmental factors of the mother can also occur in animals.
Mother animals influence their offspring. When the mother hens get a lot of vitamins, this has a positive influence on the disease sensitivity of the chickens. Even so if, for example, piglets are kept in an enriched environment, this has a positive effect on their resilience in later life.
The influence of nutrition
The study of the microbiome also plays an important role in our research. The microbiome in the gut (or gut flora: all microorganisms that live in the gut) influences the development of the immune system, and therefore susceptibility to disease. Different types of feed each have their own influence on the microbiome. If a young animal receives a lot of antibiotics, it will have an effect on the microbiome and in turn can make it less robust as an adult animal. We now know that the human microbiome also plays a role in mental disorders such as autism and depression. We may assume that the microbiome also affects behaviour in animals.
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