USDA’s Agricultural Research Service has opened a new 2,300-square-foot Farm Animal Behavior and Well-Being Laboratory in West Lafayette, Ind., to study stress indicators in livestock. Researchers at the new lab also will study the relationship between stress and the ability of pathogenic bacteria to establish themselves in animals.

The new facility on the Purdue University campus adjoins a 10,000-square-foot laboratory to house ARS' Livestock Behavior Research Unit, which conducts behavioral studies of swine, cattle and poultry.

ARS Acting Administrator Edward B. Knipling says the new ARS lab will complement the behavioral studies under way in the animal lab to find possible objective measures of animal stress.

Donald Lay, research leader and animal behavioralist at the lab, is working on an imaging system to show the movement of Salmonella bacteria through live pigs. He and colleagues also are researching alternative housing for poultry and livestock.

In tandem with the housing research, the ARS-Purdue team is pioneering the idea of breeding nonaggressive animals to reduce losses and stress. This includes selecting sows whose maternal behavior makes them less likely to injure their piglets, a problem that costs producers more than $600 million annually.