Marina Von Keyserlingk

Professor

Relevant Degree Programs

 

Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.

 

Nina is a #GreatSupervisor because of how dedicated she is both to her students and to research. She is one of the most supportive and caring mentors I have worked with and makes sure her students have all the support they need in order to succeed and do well in their studies and in life. Nina is also a leader in her field of research and does a wonderful job guiding and instructing her students in how best to do their own research. It is inspiring to work with Nina and I feel very grateful to have her as my supervisor.

Lara Sirovica (2019)

 

There are many great things about my supervisors and the program that they have created. Their research program is admirable and it makes me happy and proud to be part of it. Each and every student in my program is up to solving big problems in order to improve the lives of animals and it takes great supervisors to create and then lead such a program. In addition, the program is perfectly organized. There is no competition between the students, there is always help available if needed and more importantly, it feels like a family. Though my supervisors are extremely busy, but, they still make sure that they give enough support and advice to their students in order to succeed. Regardless of it being challenging, I enjoy every day of my life in my program and I feel like I have everything I need to grow and succeed.  

Mohammad Sahar (2019)

 

Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2019)
Societal unease with modern agricultural production : the case of animal welfare (2017)

Agricultural intensification has created a great deal of public skepticism. One major area of concern has been the welfare of animals. This thesis explores a diversity of issues centering on perceptions of the welfare of animals. Chapter 1 begins by reviewing the literature on theories of welfare in both humans and animals. After highlighting several challenges for contemporary theorizing about animal welfare, I conclude that philosophical progress on these problems can be enhanced via experimental research. Chapter 2 describes what such an approach might look like by testing the prominent view that animal welfare consists entirely of how an animal feels. Chapter 3 then examines the empirical support for the popular view that there is a negative relationship between farm size and animal welfare. Using a broad conception of welfare, I conclude that farm size and animal welfare exhibit no consistent relationship. Chapter 4 explores how perceived openness and trust affects perceptions of farm animal welfare. I found evidence that attempts to restrict the ability to monitor a farm’s inner-workings (operational transparency) diminished trust, led to more negative perceptions of animal welfare and greater support for legislative and regulatory restrictions governing animal care. Chapter 5 is a case study describing the attitudes of different stakeholders regarding the common practice of dehorning dairy calves. After describing the level of support among different stakeholders in my sample, I explore the barriers to adopting pain mitigation strategies by focusing primarily on the reasons given by participants opposed to providing pain relief.

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Understanding the welfare of dairy animals during the transition between lactations (2015)

The cessation of milking, or dry off, is a regular management practice in dairy animals. This practice initiates a non lactating, or dry, period. Milking begins again after parturition. Provision of a dry period is done largely to improve milk production in the subsequent lactation, but also to address udder health issues (intramammary infections); therefore, the majority of literature focuses on these areas, and little consideration is given to the welfare of the individual animal. The goals of this thesis were to develop a better understanding of how common dry off methods, and the dry period itself, affect three components of animal welfare: biological functioning, affective states and natural behaviour in dairy cows and dairy goats. The first study in this dissertation explored how high producing dairy cows experience abrupt cessation of milking, a commonly utilized procedure. The results suggested that cows remain motivated to leave the pen around milking time, and that these cows leak milk, a risk factor for intramammary infections. Since dry off methodology is not well understood in dairy goats, the second study shifted towards describing dry off management used by goat producers. Although similarities to cow management exist, goat producers show more flexibility in decision making around dry off, sometimes opting to give high producing goats shorter, or even no, dry periods. Within this work, concerns were also identified regarding metabolic issues in goats (pregnancy toxemia and ketosis). Therefore, the final studies combined to explore the early identification of these issues in goats. The third study validated the use of data loggers on goats, allowing for automatic recording of lying behaviour. The fourth study applied these loggers to monitor the lying behaviour of goats during the dry period, and searched for links to pregnancy toxemia and ketosis. The results showed that at-risk goats increase their lying time and decrease their activity, making lying behaviour a promising indicator of metabolic issues. Finally, three key areas are discussed for future research, namely continued work in evaluating affective states in dairy animals, benchmarking of on-farm research results, and exploring the possibilities of deviating from standard annual lactation cycles.

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Understanding the behaviour of transition dairy cows (2013)

Many concerns over the welfare of dairy cattle occur during the time around parturition. As cows transition from a pregnant to a lactating state, they are at high risk of disease and other painful conditions. In most intensive housing systems, these ‘transition’ cows are also kept in environments designed for the ease of management, with little consideration given to the expression of natural behaviours. This thesis addresses two main themes that are currently missing from the transition cow literature: 1) using knowledge of behaviour to improve management and housing practices, and 2) using behaviour as an indicator of poor health. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 address the first theme, and provide evidence that common management practices that disturb cows during parturition may interfere with calving; cows moved from a group pen into an individual pen during a late stage of labour spent more time standing in the hour before calving and experienced prolonged stage II labour compared to those moved earlier. Next, two preference studies were used to determine the type of environments that cows prefer during parturition. Results suggest that cows prefer to be in an undisturbed, secluded environment during labour and calving. To address the second theme, Chapter 2 describes the growing evidence in the human and laboratory animal literature that social behaviour can be useful as both an indicator of illness, as well as an early predictor of disease. Yet, there is little research to date making this link in farm animals. The remaining chapters describe studies that used behaviour to identify cows with three major health problems: infectious disease, dystocia and lameness. Cows with infectious diseases ate less, spent more time lying and secluded themselves from a nearby group pen, all common sickness behaviours in other species. Feeding, social and standing behaviours were also found to predict cows at-risk for dystocia and lameness well before diagnosis. Collectively, these results provide evidence that a better understanding of transition cow behaviour can be useful to both improve housing and management, as well as identify cows at-risk for poor health.

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Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
Introducing heifers to freestalls using a social model (2018)

Older conspecifics can model important behaviours in group-living species, potentially reducing reliance on trial and error learning. On many farms animals are segregated by age, preventing this social modelling from occurring. The modern dairy farm is an ideal model for studying how young cattle adapt to new environments, and how these adaptations may improve through the use of social models. Freestalls, a common housing system for dairy cattle, contain individual cubicles designed to provide a clean and easy to maintain lying surfaces for cattle. However, learning to use these stalls can be a challenge for naïve animals. When introduced to freestalls for the first time, some animals refuse to lie in these stalls, choosing instead to lie in the wet manure alleys. The aim of this study was to compare the behavioural responses of naïve dairy heifers when introduced to freestalls with and without a social model that was familiar with freestall housing. Naïve Holstein heifers were randomly assigned into pairs; half were assigned a social model, and the remaining pairs were left as control groups, using 11 groups per treatment. When first introduced to freestall housing, all heifers showed a mean (± SE) 2.5-3 ± 0.6 h/d decrease in lying time and around a 1 ± 0.4 h/d decrease in average feeding time, while average time spent standing in the alley increased by 2 ± 0.4 h/d with these behaviours returning to baseline within two days. Heifers moved without a social model were more likely to lie in the alley versus heifers moved with an experienced social companion, but otherwise lying behaviour was not affected by treatment. These results indicate that the transition to freestall housing is difficult for all heifers, and providing naïve heifers with an experienced social model can reduce occurrences of undesirable stall refusal behaviour.

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Exploratory behaviour in laboratory zebrafish : potential benefits of exploring the unknown (2017)

Zebrafish are one of the most used animals in scientific research. They are typically housed in barren conditions that greatly differ from their vegetated and fluctuating wild habitats. This disconnect has received increasing attention in recent years, particularly concerning the physical environment and the necessity of environmental enrichment. However, research investigating the psychological needs of zebrafish—a highly cognizant animal—is in its infancy. One method of addressing this gap is to investigate the use of cognitive enrichment—that is, providing a captive animal with appropriate cognitive challenge in effort to improve welfare. Therefore, the aim of this thesis was to assess the role of allowing laboratory zebrafish to engage in exploration on their behavioural responses. I provided zebrafish with an opportunity to explore novel tank space by offering them access to a previously inaccessible portion of their semi-natural home tanks, within which they had been housed for nine months. I examined their exploratory behaviour (latency and number of inspections of the novel space), anxiety behaviour (bottom-dwelling) and social behaviour (agonistic behaviour, cohesion and coordination) on the day before (baseline), the day of, the day after and two weeks after providing access to the novel area. Zebrafish were found to quickly move into the new space (on average within 9.7±7.6 seconds; mean±SD) and sustained their interest on each of the observation days (P0.73), indicating that the exploration opportunity was likely not anxiety-provoking. Further, the opportunity to explore increased positive affiliative social behaviour: reducing agonistic behaviour (P=0.02), and increasing both cohesion (P=0.04) and coordination (P=0.04) relative to baseline. Considering their natural habitats would normally include such information-gain opportunities, I suggest the use of barren and stagnant laboratory conditions compromises the behavioural and psychological needs of zebrafish and reduces welfare. This thesis adds to the growing body of literature focusing on the role cognitive stimulation may play in welfare and indicates that zebrafish are good candidates for further cognitive enrichment research.

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Colour matters : coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) prefer and are less aggressive in darker coloured tanks (2015)

Fish are capable of colour vision and certain colours have been shown to affect growth and survival, skin colour, stress response, and reproduction. Beyond these physiological consequences, colour has also been shown to affect aggression levels, which is a widespread problem in aquaculture. The compatibility of fish with tank colour has been largely neglected within the aquaculture industry. Common practice is to use light blue tanks but there is no scientific basis for this choice. Closed containment aquaculture systems provide a good model to investigate the effects of tank colour on fish. Though closed containment aquaculture systems provide the opportunity for full control of environmental conditions, little research to date has investigated which parameters within these systems promote fish welfare. The aim of this study was to assess preferences of coho salmon for tank colour and determine the effects of colour on aggression. Coho salmon (n=100) were randomly assigned to 10 tanks, each bisected to allow fish to choose between two colours. Using a Latin-square design, each tank was tested with each of the following colour choices: blue vs. white, light grey, dark grey, and black, as well as black vs. white, light grey, dark grey, and a mixed dark grey/black pattern. Fish showed a strong preference for black over all other tank background options (p
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Clincal ketosis and standing behaviour in transition dairy cows (2014)

No abstract available.

Effect of regrouping on social behaviour and milk production of mid-lactation dairy cows, and individual variation in aggression (2013)

Dairy cows are often mixed into new social groups for management reasons, but this is recognized as a cause of social stress. The objectives of this study were to investigate the effect of regrouping on social behaviour, self-licking and milk production of mid-lactation cows introduced in pairs, and to see whether individual variation in aggression is consistent before and after regrouping. In 7 replications (n=7), 14 mid-lactation cows were introduced in pairs into an established group of filler (resident) cows. After regrouping, agonistic contacts and displacement of the introduced cows increased during the first 3 and 2 days, respectively. Compared to baseline (the day before regrouping), the number of social licking events between the introduced cows and the resident cows in the pen did not change after regrouping, but the proportion of social licking between the two introduced cows increased sharply after regrouping (38 ± 9 %) compared to baseline (10 ± 9 %). Duration of social licking decreased declined after regrouping; whereas, self-licking increased on the day of regrouping. Compared to the resident cows, milk production of the introduced cows significantly decreased on the first 2 days after regrouping, and showed a negative linear association with agonistic contacts received and with displacements lost. Two measures of aggressive behaviour (proportion of agonistic contact initiated and proportion of displacements won) were relatively consistent before and after regrouping (R² = 0.75 and 0.68 respectively), suggesting that the differences reflected individual differences in aggressiveness, rather than social status within a given group. In the present experiment, low-and high-aggressive individuals were not different in milk production, social licking and age at first calving, but low-aggressive cows had higher 305-day projected milk production (12,928.0 ± 580 kg) than high-aggressive cows (10,530.0 ± 530 kg). Individual variation in aggression was not associated with body weight, although the heaviest cow in the group won all encounters before and after regrouping. The findings of this study provide the first insights that introducing cows in pairs may mitigate the effects of social stress during mixing.

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Hock injuries in freestall housed dairy cows (2013)

The objective of this thesis was to investigate housing and management risk factors associated with the prevalence of hock injuries in freestall herds (n = 76) in two areas of intensive dairy production, Northeastern US (NE-US) and California (CA). One group of high-production multiparous cows (n = 38) was monitored for hock injuries on each farm and data on management, facility and stall design were collected. Risk factors associated with the overall proportion of cows having injuries or severe injuries at the univariable level were submitted to multivariable general linear models. In NE-US, overall hock injuries increased with the percentage of stalls with fecal contamination (OR = 1.26; CI = 1.02 to 1.54, for a 10% increase), and with the use of sawdust bedding (OR = 3.47; CI = 1.14 to 10.62), and decreased with deep bedding (OR = 0.05; CI = 0.02 to 0.14), sand bedding (OR = 0.06; CI = 0.02 to 0.15), bedding DM ≥ 83.9% (OR = 0.08; CI = 0.03 to 0.20), and access to pasture during the dry period (OR = 0.17; CI = 0.05 to 0.53). In the multivariable model, only the presence of deep bedding remained significant. Severe hock injuries increased with the use of automatic scrapers (OR = 2.29; CI = 1.11 to 4.71) and the percentage of stalls with fecal contamination (OR = 1.14; CI = 1.00 to 1.31, for a 10% increase), and decreased with sand bedding (OR = 0.22; CI = 0.10 to 0.49), deep bedding (OR = 0.24; CI = 0.11 to 0.52), bedding DM ≥ 83.9% (OR = 0.28; CI = 0.14 to 0.58), and access to pasture during the dry period (OR = 0.42; CI = 0.18 to 0.97). The multivariable model included the use of automatic scrapers and deep bedding. In CA, stall stocking density (OR = 1.41; CI = 1.00 to 2.01, for a 10% increase) and bedding concavity (OR = 1.08; CI = 1.01 to 1.16, for a 2.5-cm decrease) were associated with an increase of hock injuries. In general, deep-bedded and well-maintained stalls significantly reduced the risk of hock injuries.

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The rehabilitation of black bears (Ursus americanus) in North America : a survey of current practices (2013)

Throughout the year, black bear (Ursus americanus) cubs are orphaned, abandoned, or permanently separated from their mothers due to natural or human causes. Although cubs have been the focus of limited rehabilitation efforts in North America for more than 30 years, information on bear rehabilitation remains sparse. Furthermore, a lack of agreement exists regarding the suitability of bears as rehabilitation candidates. There is concern that exposure to humans during the rehabilitation process may increase the likelihood of bears becoming nuisances upon release. Yet previous research suggests that their genetic predisposition to emigrate and lead relatively solitary lives may limit the ef-fects of any habituation to humans that takes place during care. Clearly, given the lack of research as well as the controversy, there is a need to determine whether rehabilitation is a viable option for black bears in North America. Accordingly, a survey was sent out to 39 wildlife rehabilitation centres (9 in Canada and 30 in the United States) to obtain detailed information on how cubs are raised and released. Findings from the multi-institution, multi-year study suggest that black bears are suitable rehabilitation candidates, as they can be raised and released using a variety of methods, while achieving high survival rates and weights compared to bears at a similar age in the wild. The results of this study provide vital information for wildlife rehabilitators and government, and may be useful for the development of future policies and standards for the rehabilitation of black bear cubs in North America. Furthermore, with a better understanding of the rehabilitation process, government wildlife agencies may be more open to supporting black bear rehabilitation in the future.

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Controlling energy intake in the prepartum period to improve transition cow health (2011)

A common feeding practice during the dry period is to switch dairy cows to a low forage, energy dense diet 3 weeks prepartum, but this practice has been criticized as it may lead to the overconsumption of energy and increase the risk of metabolic disease postpartum. The aim of this trial was to compare the metabolic status of transition Holstein dairy cows fed a 77% forage diet (77F) (NEL = 1.46 Mcal/kg; NDF = 41%) versus those fed a 87% forage diet (87F) (NEL = 1.41 Mcal/kg; 48% NDF). Approximately 60 days before calving cows were dried off and fed the 87F diet. Three weeks before expected calving cows were randomly assigned to either remain on the 87F diet (n=42) or switched to the 77F diet (n=45). After calving, all cows were fed a common lactation diet (NEL=1.59 Mcal/kg). Dry matter intake (DMI) was measured daily from 2 weeks before to 2 weeks after calving. Blood was sampled twice-weekly prepartum and daily for 10 days postpartum. Subclinical ketosis (SCK) was diagnosed using a threshold of BHBA ≥ 1.0 mmol/L after calving. Metritis was determined by examining vaginal discharge. Cows on the 87F diet had lower DMI prepartum than those on the 77F diet (12.7 kg/d ± 0.3 vs. 15.4 ± 0.3, P
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Temporal feed restriction and overstocking increase competition for feed in group-housed dairy cattle (2011)

Dairy cows are often overstocked. Some managers are now also using ‘slick bunk’ management to save on feed costs, but this reduces the time cows have access to feed. Both practices may increase competition and affect feeding behaviour in cows. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of temporal and spatial restrictions on the feeding and competitive behavior of group-housed cows. Using a replicated Latin square design 48 Holstein cows were randomly assigned to groups of 6 cows. Groups were tested as overstocked at the feeder (2:1 cows:feed bin) or not (1:1 cow:bin) and provided feed access for either 14 or 24 h/d. DMI, feeding time and rate were measured for 24 h and 2 h following fresh feed delivery for the last 4 d of the 7 d periods. Displacements were recorded for 2 h after delivery of morning feed (peak feeding period) and 2 h following afternoon milking. DMI tended to decline when temporal access was restricted (27.0 vs. 25.7 ± 0.5 kg/d), but was not affected by overstocking (26.4 ± 1.9, mean ± SD). Temporally restricted cows spent less time feeding (190.9 vs. 207.9 ± 6.1 min). Overstocked cows that were also temporally restricted had greater feeding rates during the day (156 vs. 137 ± 4 g/min) and especially during the peak feeding period (175 vs. 146 ± 4 g/min) compared to cows that were not restricted. In the peak period, overstocked cows had reduced DMI (3.0 vs. 3.4 ± 0.1 kg/h) and feeding times (20.8 vs. 25.8 ± 1.0 min/h) and increased feeding rates (161 vs. 138 ± 4 g/min). Cows with restricted temporal access had greater DMI (3.9 vs. 2.6 ± 0.2 kg/h) and time spent feeding (27.3 vs. 19.2 ± 1.3 min/h) during the peak period, compared with cows that were not restricted. Restricting temporal access in conjunction with overstocking resulted in the greatest increase in daily displacements (15.0 vs. 3.8 ± 1.4 displacements/d); the majority of these occurred during the peak period. Adequate space and time to access feed is essential to minimize feed bunk competition in indoor group-housing systems.

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Assessing cow comfort using lying behaviour and lameness (2010)

Over the past decade, there has been growth in scientific research on welfare in modern dairy production systems. The issue of cow comfort and how it relates to the risk of lameness has received considerable interest. The objectives of this thesis were to establish reliable methods of using lying behaviour as a measure of cow comfort, to describe the variation in lying behaviour of individual cows within farm and between farms, and to evaluate the relationship between stall comfort, lying behaviour, and lameness. A cross-farm assessment was conducted on 43 commercial dairy farms in the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia. Electronic data loggers recorded lying behaviour of 2033 cows at 1-min intervals for 5 days. The first study established that monitoring at least 30 cows per farm for 3 days provides an accurate estimate of the lying behaviour of the lactating cows at that time. Cows averaged 11 h/d lying down, separated into 9 bouts/d with an average duration of 88 min/bout. Cows were scored for lameness using a 5-point Numerical Rating System (NRS) in which 1 = sound and 5 = severely lame. A subsample of 1319 cows from 28 farms using either deep-bedded stalls (n = 11) or mattress stalls (n = 17) were used for the second study. Overall, 21% of the cows were scored as NRS = 3 and 7% as NRS = 4; no cow was scoared as NRS = 5. Mattress farms had higher prevalence of NRS = 4 compared to deep-bedded farms (9 vs. 4%, respectively). Cows with NRS = 4 housed on deep-bedded stalls spent 1.6 h/d more lying, and had longer bouts compared to cows with NRS ≤ 3, but there were no behavioural differences among cows with different degrees of lameness housed on mattress stalls. Extreme lying behaviour, particularly the high lying times (≥ 14 h/d) and long lying bouts (≥ 99 min/bout) were associated with increased odds of lameness, regardless of stall surface. Stall comfort, lying behaviour, and lameness are interlinked, and should all be integrated as measures of cow comfort.

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Effects of sawdust bedding dry matter on lying behaviour of dairy cows : a dose dependent response (2010)

The objective of this thesis was to determine the effects of bedding dry matter on lying behaviour of Holstein cows. Over time bedding becomes wet with urine, feces and milk, but no research is available to guide recommendations for farmers regarding how often bedding should be replaced. I carried out two replicates of an experiment testing the effects of varying dry matter content of sawdust bedding systematically over five treatment levels. One replicate was conducted during the summer and one in the winter to test if the effects of damp bedding varied with season. The five bedding treatments averaged (± SD) 89.8 ± 3.7, 74.2 ± 6.4, 62.2 ± 6.3, and 43.9 ± 4.0, and 34.7 ± 3.8% dry matter. Over the course of the trial, minimum and maximum temperatures in the barn were 2.6 ± 2.0 and 6.8 ± 2.2º C in the winter and 13.3 ± 2.5 and 22.6 ± 4.1º C in the summer. In both seasons, five groups of three non-lactating cows were housed in free stalls bedded with sawdust. Following a five day acclimation period on dry bedding, groups were exposed to the five bedding treatments in a five by five Latin square. Each treatment lasted four days, followed by one day when the cows were provided with dry bedding. Stall usage was assessed by 24 hour video scanned at five minute intervals averaged over two days. Responses were analyzed in a mixed model with group as the observational unit. Bedding dry matter affected lying time, averaging 10.4 ± 0.4 hours per day on the wettest treatment and increasing to 11.5 ± 0.4 hours per day on the driest bedding. Lying time varied with season, averaging 12.1 ± 0.4 hours per day across treatments during the winter and 9.9 ± 0.6 hours per day during the summer, but season and bedding dry matter did not interact. These results show that wet bedding reduces lying time in a dose dependent manner during both winter and summer seasons.

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News Releases

This list shows a selection of news releases by UBC Media Relations over the last 5 years.
 

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