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AWSC Newsletter - September 2017

Welcome to the first issue of our new Animal Welfare Science Centre Newsletter. We'll be letting you know what we're up to by sending you occasional newsletters. As always, we'd love to get your feedback and our contact details are on the bottom of the email - remember you can unsubscribe at any time.
Comings and goings
The Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC) is pleased to announce the appointment of a new independent AWSC Board Chair.

Ms Lucinda Corrigan is a leading beef producer in the Murray Valley of NSW which supplies breeding stock, and semen to commercial producers across Australia and international markets. Ms Corrigan has skills and experience in research and development, genetics, natural resource management, communications, marketing and advocacy.

Lucinda has a degree in agricultural science from Sydney University and is a fellow of the Aust Institute of Company Directors and The Aust Rural Leadership Foundation. She has served as a non-executive director on a number of agrifood industry bodies and innovation companies, including as director of four cooperative research centres (CRCs) and chair of the advisory committee of the Graham Centre for Agricultural Innovation.

Lucinda was a Non-Executive Director of Meat and Livestock Australia from 2007 to 2016.
The AWSC is guided by a Board of Managment which meets four times per year. The Board recently met at the University of Melbourne to discuss the Strategic direction of the Centre and communications priorities.
Front: Andrew Fisher, Lucinda Corrigan. Back: Phil Hynd, Peter Appleford, John Fazakerley, David Marland (Joe Jacobs proxy).

Current members of the Board are:

Ms. Lucinda Corrigan
Independent Chair

Dr. Joe Jacobs
Research Director – Animal Production Sciences, Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Dr Peter Appleford
Executive Director, South Australian Research and Development Institute.

Prof. John Fazakerley
Dean, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne.

Prof. Phil Hynd
Head of School, Deputy Head, School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide.

Prof. Andrew Fisher
Director AWSC, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne.
New Director of AWSC
The Board of the Animal Welfare Science Centre (AWSC) is pleased to announce that Professor Andrew Fisher has accepted its invitation to become Director of the AWSC and is confident that the AWSC will continue to thrive and grow in esteem as Andrew drives the Centre's RD&E activities over the next period.
Former AWSC Director Professor Paul Hemsworth will maintain his research and teaching contributions within the AWSC and said that the Centre “will benefit from a new pair of hands at the wheel". As Director of the Centre since its inception, Paul was responsible for leading and coordinating the overall allocated academic and research resources of the partner organizations in the Centre.
Paul has a long academic track record with over 450 publications. He is in the top 1 per cent of scientists for individual impact in Plant and Animal Science according to Web of Science.
The AWSC Board recognises Prof Hemsworth’s significant contribution to the Centre and said he leaves “huge shoes to fill,” but noted that Andrew is a fitting successor who brings decades of international experience in animal welfare and research leadership to the role.

Andrew Fisher graduated as a veterinarian in 1989 and worked in mixed rural practice in Colac in southwest Victoria, then in northern England. Following this he worked for four years with Teagasc, the Irish government agricultural extension and research agency, with work aimed at improving beef cattle welfare. During this time he completed a PhD through the Veterinary School at University College Dublin.
Andrew then moved to AgResearch in New Zealand and worked on animal welfare projects to improve transport practices for sheep and on dairy and beef cattle management practices for six years. 

Australia’s CSIRO recruited Andrew in 2002 to lead the livestock welfare research group based near Armidale in New South Wales. In 2009, Andrew took up a position contributing to the AWSC at the University of Melbourne, and in 2011 was appointed Chair of Cattle and Sheep Production Medicine. Andrew has worked with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to help write its international beef cattle welfare guidelines, and has also been involved in the development of the Australian Standards and Guidelines for the welfare of cattle, sheep and transported livestock.

In 2010 he was appointed as one of the first two Fellows in Animal Welfare by the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists. During his time at the University of Melbourne, Andrew has served in various leadership roles within the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, including Associate Dean for Research and Research Training, and most recently as Head of Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences.
AWSC Farewells Jean-Loup Rault
Jean-Loup is moving to University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, as Professorial Head of the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Animal Welfare.
In his 6 years at the Animal Welfare Science Centre, University of Melbourne, Jean-Loup has made a huge contribution to teaching and research, especially in the pork and poultry industries (his appointment at the University has been supported by Australian Pork Ltd, Australian Eggs Ltd and RIRDC Chicken meat). He has managed or collaborated on 36 grants, published 35 scientific papers, mentored 22 research students and lectured in 7 subjects. 

His scientific achievements were recognised by the 2016 International Society of Applied Ethology New Investigator Award. Jean-Loup has also engaged extensively with industry and society, having delivered over 55 talks, interviews, industry and newspaper articles. Most notably, he provided scientific expertise in the development of the poultry welfare Standards and Guidelines nationally, and in the establishment of OIE standards on laying hen welfare worldwide.

We wish Jean-Loup all the best and hope to maintain the relationship through collaborations in the future.

A Selection of Research Snapshots
Sow Contentment
Dr Rebecca Doyle, (Senior Research Fellow, Uni Melb), shared some of the results from a PorkCRC funded project at The UFAW Conference in Surrey this June. The results are a part of a larger study aimed at measuring contentment in sows, with these results looking at developing a rapid cognitive bias test for sows in farrowing housing.

Twenty out of 24 sows learnt the task, and did so in only two training sessions. Sows were already achieving 85% accuracy on the task after just one training session (average of 2:45). The rapid training time and simple task makes this a promising option for environments where animals in confinement, when social separation is undesirable, or other instances when ex situ testing is inappropriate (e.g. zoo settings).
Range enrichment to improve layer hen welfare
Welfare of laying hens will remain a major issue for consumers if birds are not encouraged to range, or if they use the range ineffectively, There is potential to improve the ranging ability of birds in free range systems and to reduce abnormal behaviours, such as severe feather pecking by improving the attractiveness of the range.

This study, "Determination of best practice range enrichment to improve layer bird welfare", supported by the PoultryCRC and conducted by SARDI researchers Dr Carolyn de Koning and Dr Soressa Kitessa, on three commercial free range egg layer farms in South Australia, compared a continuum of range enrichments (shelters, dust bathing pits, hay bales and pecking toys) with the industry standard. The main aim was to attract more hens outdoors and utilise the range more effectively.

The highly enriched side of the range attracted significantly more hens, (double the numbers compared to the standard range). Shelters had the highest level of hen visits (over 350 hen visits in one hour) and catered for the hens’ inherent need for protection from over-head threats while providing a safe place for dust bathing and resting. Dust bathing pits were also highly utilised while hay bales supplied foraging material. Pecking toys in the form of orange traffic cones were very successful in attracting inquisitive hens to peck and scratch at them. The study also confirmed those birds on the range had significantly better plumage condition compared to those birds in the shed, therefore it is important to attract as many birds as possible outdoors.
Penguins at the zoo
Understanding human-animal interactions is an important aspect for organizations such as zoos that display animals to the public because animals can encounter frequent, and sometimes intense, interactions with unfamiliar humans that may compromise animal welfare and visitor experience.

Studies have shown that zoo visitors can influence the behaviour and welfare of zoo animals and such effects have been interpreted as stressful, enriching or innocuous. The inconsistent and conflicting literature has limited our understanding of the zoo visitor-animal relationship.

Funded by an ARC Linkage project grant, the aim of Samantha Chiew’s PhD is to understand how visitors affect zoo animal behaviour and welfare in a rarely studied species, little penguins (Eudyptula minor). It also aims to understand how zoo animals affect visitor attitudes and experience. This research will expand knowledge on the visitor-animal relationship, providing insight on visitor-animal interactions to improve animal welfare and visitor experience in situations where they are at risk.

Data collection for two studies has been completed so far by Samantha and were conducted at Melbourne Zoo (Zoos Victoria) and at Taronga Zoo (Taronga Conservation Society). At Melbourne Zoo, she investigated the effects of manipulating viewing proximity and the intensity of visitor interactions on little penguin behaviour and stress physiology. While, at Taronga Zoo, she examined the effects of zoo visitors on little penguin behaviour through the manipulation of visual contact.

Stress in dogs in veterinary clinics
Petra Edwards is commencing a PhD project with the University of Adelaide entitled ‘Stress in dogs in veterinary clinics: Identifying risk factors and investigating approaches to fear free veterinary care.’

For some dogs visiting a veterinary clinic is a traumatic event, and ‘fear free’ veterinary practices are becoming popular. Despite this the evidence surrounding factors that increase or decrease the risk of a fear reaction in dogs visiting veterinary practices is limited. A prospective cohort study is in the planning stages to analyse significant risk factors for the development of fear reactions in dogs going to the vet.

The results will allow interventions to be designed to limit fear reactions, improving the welfare of dogs. This will enable a more positive human-animal bond and promote positive dog-owner-veterinarian interactions.  
The 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at the Farm and Group Level was recently held in Wageningen, Netherlands.
The proceedings of the conference are available to download HERE. The AWSC was well represented at the conference with Ellen Jongman, Lauren Hemsworth, Jeremy Skuse, Carolina Muñoz and Sarah Kuyken attending and presenting.
Lauren Hemsworth (R) catching up with                          Sarah Kuyken (R) with Christine Briant (INRA)
Teresa Collins (C - Murdoch Uni) and
Karina Gleerup (L - Uni Copenhagen)

Our mailing address is:
Animal Welfare Science Centre, Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia, 3010

T:  +61383448933


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Animal Welfare Science Centre · The University of Melbourne · Melbourne, Vic 3010 · Australia

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