Measuring body composition and bone density with X-rays

Agroscope recently acquired a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry device (DXA). This device was originally developed for human medicine, for the early detection of osteoporosis. The technology is non-invasive, thus enabling the measurement of total body composition on the living animal, in order to follow growth. Currently being used in a research project on protein nutrition, the DXA device can also be used to measure bone density, thereby providing important information on mineral (i.e. calcium and phosphorus) nutrition.

Several models based on the total body composition of fattening pigs and at present used to define feeding recommendations date from 30 years ago. Since then, both the fattening pigs and their diet have changed considerably. The animals are substantially fleshier today than in the past. The future revision of feed recommendations is intended to take this development into account.

Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry

Encouraging good table manners in horses

A large-scale field study conducted jointly by ETH Zurich’s  Ethology and Animal Welfare Unit and the Swiss National Stud Farm of Agroscope compared various feeding systems in group housing.

Hay nets were the feeding system with the least aggressive behavior. Feeding places that were far apart or individually separated by partitions proved to be advantageous. Moreover, long availability duration of hay in addition to straw lowers the risk of aggressions. Surprisingly, social aspects of the group composition had only a minor influence on the occurrence of conflicts during feeding.

Group housing. Seating arrangements for horses

Agroscope: Schweizer Nationalgestüt



Avoiding pyrrolizidine alkaloids in bee honey

An abundance of viper’s bugloss in the vicinity of apiaries can be problematic, since toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) contained in the plant can be transferred to the honey. Agroscope investigated nectar and pollen from viper’s bugloss plants on various sites. Pollen contains higher PA concentrations than nectar. Since honey consists primarily of concentrated nectar and contains very little pollen, however, the PAs enter the honey chiefly via the nectar. Large numbers of plants containing PAs should therefore not be allowed to bloom in the vicinity of beehives.

Pyrrolizidine alkaloid