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Could virtual reality function as future of poultry health?

Researchers at Iowa State University are trying to increase hens welfare and health through virtual reality (VR).

Recently, VR technology has found its way into all of life. From video gaming to job training, VR attempts to provide users an event as near reality as you possibly can. Though to numerous, this advancement in technology may sound dystopian, researchers in the united states have found ways it could improve our day to day lives.

Melha Mellata, associate professor, Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, and Graham Redweik, a recently available doctoral student in the Interdepartmental Microbiology Graduate Program at Iowa State, are seeing if VR may be used in just one more unconventional way, this time around for the birds.

The Iowa State researchers recognized that the increasing demand for cage-free eggs comes from the goal to supply hens with better welfare, particularly with regards to natural behavior. But as the cage-free systems can present challenges, such as for example injuries and transmissions, most laying hens are kept in conventional cages. Mellata saw VR technology, in an effort to simulate a free-range environment in laying hen housing.

There are numerous challenges connected with free-range production environments for laying hens, including prospect of additional injuries, disease and risks from predators, Mellata said. However, hens in free-range environments do have a tendency to engage more regularly in positive, normal behaviors that appear to enhance their general health and immunity.

The analysis, Contact with a Virtual Environment Induces Biological and Microbiota Changes in Onset-of-Lay Hens, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers of Science, discovered that showing hens VR scenes of chickens in more natural environments reduced indicators of stress in the hens blood and gut microbiota.Its intriguing to believe that even just showing hens free-range environments can stimulate similar immunological benefits, Mellate said.

Chickens are highly receptive to visual stimuli. Like their T-rex ancestors, chickens have poor depth perception and recognize objects better if they are moving than stationary. Based on the study, which means that environmental factors, such as for example color, light quality, duration and intensity all affect the feeding behaviors of poultry.

For instance, when considering a video of chicks feeding, the birds will imitate these behaviors and approach their feed quicker.

The analysis discovered that the VR scenes induced biochemical changes linked to increased resistance to E. coli bacteria, which poses health threats to poultry also to humans who eat contaminated eggs.

Researchers displayed video projections of chickens in free-range environments. Scenes showed indoor facilities with usage of a patio fenced scratch area and unfenced open prairie with grasses, shrubs and flowers. Several 34 hens from commercial poultry flocks was subjected to the videos over five days on all walls of these housing. The videos were tested throughout a high-risk period for stress 15 weeks after hatching, a stage when commercial hens are regularly moved to egg-laying facilities.

The visual-only recordings showed diverse sets of free-range chickens performing activities connected with positive poultry behaviors predicated on period, such as for example preening, perching, dust-bathing and nesting. Videos weren’t proven to a control band of exactly the same size and age in exactly the same kind of housing.

The researchers analyzed blood, tissues and examples of their intestinal microbiota. Chickens in the procedure group showed several beneficial changes when compared to control group. The differences included lower indicators of stress and increased resistance to Avian Pathogenic E. coli bacteria that may cause sepsis and death in young birds.

We are in need of more research, but this suggests virtual reality is actually a not at all hard tool to boost poultry health in confined environments and improve food safety, Mellata said. It might also be considered a relatively inexpensive solution to reduce infections and the necessity for antibiotics in egg production.

The team hopes to expand the study to conduct an identical study over a longer period, with an increase of chickens and chickens at different stages, to see if the outcomes could be replicated.

Future research in collaboration with this partners in veterinary medicine can be had a need to investigate the neurochemical mechanisms linking the visual stimuli to changes in the chickens intestines, Mellata said.

The entire study could be viewed here.

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