Oorsig/Review What is inflammation and why SHOULD YOU be concerned? Dr Connie Larson Historically the livestock and poultry industries have addressed common production challenges, such as poor carcass and meat quality, suboptimal reproduction, decreased milk production and milk quality, as well as lameness, as singular issues. We now understand that there is a common root cause that links these production issues: chronic or imbalanced inflammation. What is inflammation? Inflammation is necessary for life and is the first step in the healing or repair process that helps the body fight off bacteria, pathogens and their toxins, and repair damaged tissue. If you’ve ever twisted your ankle, been stung by an insect or cut your finger, you may have experienced first-hand the familiar sensations of pain, redness, swelling, and heat that result from an injury or infection. This is inflammation in action. While an appropriate and robust inflammatory response is necessary, excessive or prolonged inflammation can become detrimental if not controlled. Inflammation is divided into two categories: acute and chronic. • • Acute inflammation is the first line of defence to a pathogen or injury. It’s a short-term process wherein the immune system sends white blood cells to the site of the injury to initiate the healing process. This response should be rapid and robust, appearing within minutes or hours following the activation of an immune response. Chronic inflammation occurs when the immune response fails to eliminate the cause of the immune response or acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation can last for weeks, months, or even longer. It diverts nutrients away from growth, reproduction and production in order to fuel the fight against the inflammatory response. 28 If you’ve ever twisted your ankle, you may have experienced the familiar sensations of pain, redness, swelling, and heat that result from an injury or infection. This is inflammation in action. The cost of chronic inflammation While inflammation is necessary, there is a trade-off in terms of animal performance. When an animal is sick, its feed intake will decrease at the same time as the immune system redirects nutrients from growth to an inflammatory response. When the immune response persists and chronic inflammation occurs, nutrients and energy are diverted away from animal performance, including growth, reproduction, feed efficiency, and meat, milk, or egg production – ultimately decreasing profitability. The immune system in action The immune system is comprised of a sophisticated network of cells, proteins and enzymes that are programmed to monitor animal wellness. This network of cells detects and responds to bacteria and pathogens that may invade the body, as well as responds to stressors, injury, or environmental challenges. All of these can have a detrimental impact on animal wellness and performance.