Farm Animal Health

Clinical research on health and welfare of production animals aims to optimise and sustain animal production systems

Our research includes projects on:

  • Pathogen transmission in farm animal populations
  • Cognitive behaviour and welfare
  • Reproduction
  • Nutrition
  • Animal health economics
  • Evidence-based veterinary medicine
  • Veterinary economics

The facilities of Farm Animal Health allow for controlled animal experiments in poultry, pigs and ruminants, while the teaching farm is available for practical research. Additionally, the University Farm Animal Practice (ULP) is a large Dutch bovine practice with ample opportunities for field studies.

Pig health
Within the field of pig health, our research focuses on:

  • The control of infectious diseases
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • The welfare impact of locomotion disease

Poultry health
For poultry health we focus on:

  • Infection and immunity in the broiler production system to reduce dependence on antimicrobial usage

Bovine health
In the field of bovine health, our research focuses on:

  • Infectious diseases
  • Prudent use of antibiotics
  • Udder health

Small ruminants
For small ruminants we study udder health with emphasis on pathogen characteristics.

Veterinary economics
Research on veterinary economics will focus on the future role and earning capacity of veterinary clinicans, whether equine, companion or production animals.

Our research on Farm Animal Health covers a wide range of clinically relevant subjects in many animal species, but is well embedded in and connected to the research infrastructure of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Research is always supervised by a senior researcher, often related to a thematic programme.

Pigs love M&M's

Want to know what the pig in this video is searching for? Just read the story below.

The video shows a pig searching for M&M’s® in the holeboard, from the pig’s perspective. We use the holeboard task to test spatial learning in pigs. The holeboard consists of an arena with a 4X4 matrix of “holes”, which are plastic food bowls covered with a red ball. Four of these 16 bowls contain M&M’s®. Because pigs like to eat M&M’s®, they search the holeboard to find the treats. In order to find the hidden M&M’s®, the pig must lift up the ball covering the bowl with its snout. This looks a lot like the natural behaviour of the pig that, in its natural habitat, spends much of its time rooting for food with its snout. If the hole contains M&M’s®, the pigs eat them and search for the M&M’s®. As soon as the pig retracts its nose, the ball falls back onto the food bowl, which means that they can’t see where they have already been. Pigs quite quickly learn which holes contain M&M’s®, and after some training, they only visit the holes that contain M&M’s®. How well and how quickly a pig learns this task can tell us a lot about its long term memory, short term memory, and motivation to find food rewards.