Donald Lay, Jr.


Donald Lay, Jr.

Donald Lay's Main Page

Research Program

The ultimate goal of Dr. Lay's research program is to discover information that will allow for both optimum animal welfare and animal production. Society, animal researchers, and livestock producers are concerned about the stress to which animals are subjected, and they all wish to have this stress minimized. Yet "we" still struggle to define stress and interpret animal behavior in order to assess the state of our livestock. Decreasing animal stress and increasing animal welfare is a noble goal and a sumountable challenge. Dr. Lay's research program is designed to meet this challenge and to produce a lasting contribution to both science and society. 

Five areas of expertise stand out as demonstrating the high degree of originality of Dr. Lay's research program: 1) work on pre-natal stress, 2) maternal behavior of sows, 3) work on Salmonella infection in swine, 4) measuring subjective states using operant conditioning, and 5) developing a novel method of assessing stress using heart rate variability.

1) "Prenatal" stress is a phenomenon that occurs when a pregnant animal is stressed and this in some way alters the behavior and the physiology of her offspring. Originally, this field used rodents as a model for humans. Before Dr. Lay initiated work on pre-natal stress in cattle and then later in swine, only one paper had been published in livestock. Recently, researchers in Germany, Holland, and Scotland have published or are conducting research on prenatal stress in swine.

2) Dr. Lay also demonstrated originality by initiating work on an exotic breed of swine, called Meishan. Meishans have been reported to be excellent mothers, crushing few if any of their offspring. Dr. Lay found that Meishans are more attentive toward their piglets and lie down in a rapid vertical fashion as compared to production sows. These character differences can allow future work to progress in selecting sows that kill few of their own offspring. With the same goal in mind of decreasing piglet crushing, the incumbent designed and tested a "simulated udder" to more effectively draw piglets to a safe area.

3) Dr. Lay work on Salmonella infection in swine discovered that the bacteria can monitor their host using the host's hormones and optimize their infection. In addition, in a collaborative project a novel technique using biophotonics to detect the incidence of Salmonella was developed.

4) The difficulty of studying subjective states is that by definition they can not be quantified. Using operant conditioning techniques the incumbent turned feelings of hunger into quantifiable data in the form of number of pecks for hens and amount of weight pushed for swine in order to assess states of hunger.

5) Dr. Lay has recently been working to develop a novel method to assess stress using heart rate variability.

Selected Publications

  1. Marchant Forde, J.N., Lay Jr., D.C., McMunn, K.A., Cheng, H.W., Pajor E.A. and Marchant-Forde, R.M. 2009. Post-natal piglet husbandry practices and well-being: The effects of alternative techniques delivered separately. J. of Anim. Sci. 87:1479-1492.

  2. Moulton, K., P. Ryan, D.C. Lay Jr., and S. Willard. 2009. Photonic plasmid stability of transformed Salmonella typhimurium: A comparison of three unique plasmids. BMC Microbiol. 9:152-159.

  3. Moulton, K., P. Ryan, D.C. Lay Jr., and S. Willard. 2009. Postmortem photonic imaging of lux-modified Salmonella Typhimurium within the gastrointestinal tract of swine after oral inoculation in vivo. J. Anim. Sci. 87:2239-2244.

  4. Lay Jr., D.C., M. Fulton, P.Y. Hester, D.M. Karcher, J.A. Mench, B.A. Mullens, R.C. Newberry, C.J. Nicol, N. P.O’Sullivan, and R.E. Porter. 2011. Hen welfare in different housing systems. Poultry Sci., 90(1):278-294.

  5. Rault, J-L., D.C. Lay Jr., and J.N. Marchant Forde. 2011. Castration induced pain in pigs and other livestock. Appl. Anim. Beh. Sci. 135(3, Sp., Iss. Sl):214-225.

  6. Rault, J-L., and D.C. Lay Jr., 2011. Nitrous oxide by itself is insufficient to relieve pain due to castration in piglets. J. Anim. Sci. 89(10):3318-3325.

  7. Poletto, R., A.M. Janczak, R.M. Marchant Forde, J.N. Marchant Forde, D.L. Matthews, C.A. Dowell, D.F. Hogan, L.J. Freeman, and D.C. Lay Jr. 2011. Identification of low and high frequency ranges from heart rate variability and blood pressure variability analyses using pharmacological autonomic blockade with atropine and propanolol in swine. Phys. and Beh. 103:188-196.

  8. Rostagno, M.H., S.D. Eicher, and D.C. Lay Jr. 2011. Immunological, physiological, and behavioral effects of Salmonella enterica carriage and shedding in experimentally infected finishing pigs. Foodborne Path. and Disease. 8(5):623-630.

  9. Lay Jr., D.C., H.G. Kattesh, J.E. Cunnick, J.E. Daniels, G. Kranendonk, K.A. McMunn, M.J. Toscano, and M.P. Roberts. 2011. Effect of prenatal stress on subsequent response to mixing stress and a lipopolysaccharide challenge in pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 89(6):1787-1794.

  10. Kanaan, V.T., D.C. Lay Jr., B.T. Richert, and E.A. Pajor. 2012. Increasing the frequency of co-mingling piglets during the lactation period alters the development of social behavior before and after weaning. J. Appl. Anim. Welfare Science. 15(2):163-180.

  11. Marchant-Forde, J.N., D.C. Lay Jr., R.M. Marchant-Forde, K.A. McMunn, and B.T. Richert. 2012. The effects of R-Salbutamol on growth, carcass measures, and health of finishing pigs. J. Anim. Sci. 90:4081-4089.

  12. Rault, J-L., K.A. McMunn, J.N. Marchant-Forde, and D.C. Lay Jr. 2013. Gas alternatives to carbon dioxide for euthanasia: A piglet perspective. J. Anim. Sci. 91(4):1874-83.

  13. Deboer, S.P., J.P. Garner, D.C. Lay Jr., S.D. Eicher, J.R. Lucas, and J. N. Marchant-Forde. 2013. Does the presence of a human affect the preference of enrichment items in young, isolated pigs? Appl. Anim. Beh. Sci. 143:96-103.

  14. Rault, J-L, C. S. Carter, J. P. Garner, J. N. Marchant B. T. Richert, and D. C. Lay Jr. 2013. Repeated intranasal oxytocin administration in early life dysregulates the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis and alters social behavior. Physiology and Behavior. Accepted. Feb.19th, 2013

  15. Eicher, S. D., D. C. Lay Jr., J. D. Arthington, and M. M. Schutz. 2013. Effects of rubber flooring during the first 2 lactations on production, locomotion, hoof health, immune functions, and stress. J. Dairy Sci. Accepted 2-22-13

  16. Rault, J-L, L. A. Mack, C. S. Carter, J. P. Garner, J. N. Marchant B. T. Richert, and D. C. Lay Jr. 2013. Prenatal stress puzzle, the oxytocin piece: Prenatal stress alters the behavior and autonomic regulation in piglets, insights from oxytocin. App. Anim. Beh. Sci. Accepted July 1, 2013

  17. Wilcox, C. S., D. C. Lay Jr., M. H. Rostagno, M. M. Schutz, and S. D. Eicher. Repeated mixing and isolation: measuring chronic, intermittent stress in Holstein calves. J. Dairy Sci. 96(11):7223-7233.

  18. Abdelfattah, E.M., M. M. Schutz, D. C. Lay Jr., J. N. Marchant-Forde, and S. Eicher. 2013. Effect of group size on behavior, health, production and welfare of veal calves. J. Anim. Sci. submitted Jan. 24, 2013. Accepted July 30, 2013

  19. Dennis, R. L., D. C. Lay Jr., and H. w. Cheng. Effects of early serotonin programming on behavior and central monoamine concentrations in an avian model. Beh. Brain Res. In Press, August 2013 (on line).

  20. Mack, L. A., S. D. Eicher, A. K. Johnson, D. C. Lay, Jr., B. T. Richert, and E. A. Pajor. 2014. Growth and reproductive development of male piglets are more vulnerable to mid-gestation maternal stress than that of female piglets. J. Anim. Sci. 92:530-548.

  21. Marchant Forde, J.N., D.C. Lay Jr., K.A. McMunn, H.w. Cheng, E.A. Pajor, and R.M. Marchant Forde. 2014. Postnatal piglet husbandry practices and well-being: the effects of alternative techniques delivered in combination. J. Anim. Sci. 92:1150-1160.

  22. Mack, L. A., S. D. Eicher, A. K. Johnson, D. C. Lay, Jr., B. T. Richert, and E. A. Pajor. 2014. Group space allowance has little effect on sow health, productivity, or welfare in a free access stall system. J. Anim. Sci. 92: