The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in supporting food and agriculture research, overseeing federal support and funding for research and extension programs. USDA NIFA plays a substantial role in the future of animal science research, through both priority identification and the provision of competitive research grants, and facilitates communication and collaboration between stakeholders related to animal agriculture.
High priority areas of animal issues developed by stakeholders participating in the 2011 ARS/NIFA workshop include:
- Top Priority: Elucidate the effects and interplay of host, indigenous microbial communities and the production environment on components of production efficiency, sustainability, and product value (including healthfulness and safety). A holistic approach for research was prioritized focused on systems optimization to improve the following: forage and feed efficiencies; product quality, product safety, and healthfulness; environmental sustainability; economic sustainability; and animal well-being. Ultimate goal is to improve global food security by improving sustainable beef production and production efficiencies.
- Improve efficiency of nutrient utilization including forages.
- Mitigate antimicrobial usage and better understand their effects.
- Enhance the healthfulness of beef products.
- Measurement of, and best management practices for, animal well-being across the production system.
“A major challenge over the next 30 years will be to generate or discover the significant biological production and production efficiency increases and to generate improved economic efficiencies to meet the global demands for meat production and to ensure profitability for producers.”
- Top Priority: Reproduction and reproductive efficiency as one of the largest drivers of profitability.
- Translational genomics of dairy cattle which impact all phenotypes and production traits associated with dairy cattle.
- Improved dairy nutrition and nutrient utilization as a primary factor for impacting production costs—feed costs currently representing approximately 70 percent of the cost of dairy production.
- Animal well-being, related to dairy production and management and consumer acceptance of dairy products and production practices.
- Improving performance for the transition cow.
- Improved heifer development as related to lifetime production and transition cow challenges.
- Top Priority: Comparative physiology and genomics to accelerate technological and genetic progress.
- Conduct studies to develop economic analysis of the goat industry, promote goat production, and foster domestic and international market development.
- Develop improved meat and milk products to enhance local food security and provide products that are higher quality and more nutrient dense.
- Develop more comprehensive sustainable production systems.
- Development of sustainable, low-input, forge-based production systems that optimize costs and resources including approaches to address genetic, reproductive and production traits with the goal of maximizing profit.
- Improvement of goat performance on high concentrate rations in confined feeding operations with focus on growth, nutrient efficiency, and environmental sustainability.
- Develop research programs focused on improved production traits including health, immunity, growth, efficiency, reproduction, parasite resistance, product quality, and animal well-being.
- Focus on systems to promote reproductive efficiency on a year-round basis.
- Top Priority: Improved production efficiencies for growing swine post-weaning in response to increasing feed and grain costs.
- Improved production efficiencies in the breeding herd to increase (optimize) sow production, longevity, and lifetime performance.
- Development of systems-based research models to optimize swine production for maximum profitability and competitiveness.
- Proactive management issues related to swine production that may affect swine industry competitiveness and profitability.
- Improved quality and demand for fresh and processed pork products.
- Adaptation of animals and production systems in response to climate change—temperature, humidity, and other environmental changes.
- Development of production models that optimize economic and environmental sustainability of the pork industry.
- Top Priority: Develop expanded research in poultry layer well-being, including alternative housing systems so informed decisions can be made by producers facing pressure from society to modify existing housing.
- Enhance feed and nutritional efficiencies of broiler breeders and develop alternative feed ingredient options to decrease the cost of feed and production.
- Enhance environmental sustainability and reduce the environmental footprint of the poultry layer industry.
- Develop comprehensive programs in functional genomics to enable the prediction of a phenotype from a genotype.
- Develop research in poultry reproduction to improve hatchability, fecundity; address management issues associated with feed restriction and satiety; and improve the genetics of egg lay and fertility.
- Improve the ability to preserve poultry germplasm through development of improved techniques and technologies—improve the ability to regenerate a specific genetic line from preserved germplasm and improve the ability to maintain current production lines.
- Top Priority: Improve preharvest food safety to provide wholesome poultry products for end users with maximum attainable shelf life.
- Enhance feed and nutritional efficiencies of broilers and develop alternative ingredient options to decrease cost of production.
- Enhance broiler production efficiency to improve the domestic and international competitiveness.
- Improve the understanding of broiler physiology to optimize bird well-being, productivity, and efficiency.
Genetics, Genomics, and Genetic Technologies
- Top Priority: Revise the USDA Blueprint for Animal Genetics to include direction for expanding the bioinformatic and quantitative genomic capacities for research to facilitate manipulation and analysis of large datasets.
- Focus research programs to cost-effectively increase the genome sequencing of individual animals and organisms. Promote the development of the next-generation genomic and genetic technologies and increase genetic progress through improved breeding and selection programs,
- Expand and coordinate research programs in phenomics, including development of comprehensive phenotype databases required for genetic characterization.
- Maintain basic research in genetic modification and genetic engineering of food animals.
- Maintain research and programming to secure, preserve, and collate animal genetic resources to ensure future access to genetic variability for food animal industries.
See reference for recommendations for extension and educational programs.
- Optimize fertility in livestock as a primary driver of productivity, production efficiency, and profitability for the food and animal industries.
- Assess the effect of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental influences and relationships on reproduction (genotype to phenotype).
- Develop innovative reproductive biotechnologies to improve reproductive function and efficiency in food animals.
- Top Priority: Optimize or improve lactation performance and lactation efficiency.
- Improve understanding of mammary development and growth.
Growth Biology and Nutritional Efficiency
- Top Priority: Develop means to potentiate nutrient utilization to reduce the relative cost of feed and forages in food animal production systems.
- Characterize and manipulate the microbiome of the gastrointestinal tract to elucidate the role of the microbiome for growth, nutrient utilization, immune function, and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Optimize current population genetic and production systems to maximize food animal product synthesis and quality. Specific areas of research include nutrition and nutrient partitioning; metabolic modifiers; fundamental biology of productive tissues, including muscle adipose, mammary gland, liver wool, etc; and adaptability, including thermal stress in response to climate change and another environmental factors.
- Developmental programming to assess how prenatal and postnatal environment affects lifetime productivity, longevity, product quality, and composition and related traits.
Animal Well-Being, Stress, and Production
- Top Priority: Quantify the relationship between animal well-being, production, and economic factors including genetics/genomics, behavior, housing, health, nutrition, management, production level, profitability, production efficiencies, and food safety. Specifically develop objective criteria to assess animal comfort and care within specific production environments.
- Evaluate the effect of current management practices and procedures on animal well-being, stress, and productivity. Develop and validate cost-effective alternative management practices and procedures that improve animal well-being.
- Identify alternatives to subtherapeutic levels of antibiotics in livestock production.
- Develop strategies to enhance recovery of livestock from stressful events and disease challenges.
Meat Quality and Muscle Biology
- Top priority: Enhance food animal meat product quality to increase consumer demand for food animal products.
- Assess and enhance the nutritional value and human health benefits of meat products.
- Increase saleable product yield from food animals, including increased lean deposition and increased yield of high-value meat cuts.
- Enhance meat product value through development and investigation of novel technologies and their application to the meat Industry.
Forage and Forage Utilization
- Top priority: Enhance basic rumen ecology through improved understanding of the following priorities: (1) enhanced nitrogen utilization in the rumen and post-ruminally; (2) elucidate the role and function of the rumen microbiome in forage digestion; and (3) elucidate the role and function of fatty acids in health and production efficiencies of ruminant food animal species.
- Develop comprehensive, systems-based, applied or translational sustainable forage systems to increase production efficiencies of ruminants.
- Improve forage utilization efficiency—on farm.
- Improve vegetative quality and nutrient availability of forages in an integrated plant and animal system.
Environmental Aspects of Sustainability: Climate Change, Greenhouse Gases, Manure Management, Water, and Air Quality
- Top priority: Define impacts of pollutants and mitigation practices through use of comparative life-cycle assessment (and other tools) for various production systems.
- Characterize, quantify, and mitigate air and water pollutants, including greenhouse gases, from livestock and poultry operations.
Alternatives to Antimicrobials for Production
- Top Priority: Conduct comprehensive risk/benefit analysis of the use of antimicrobials for specific application in food animal production.
- Identify and discover new technologies, compounds, or agents to promote animal health and well-being in the absence of conventional antimicrobials.
- Physiology of animals and bacteria: Better understand how commonly used subtherapeutic antibiotics work in the context of food safety, animal well-being, health, and profitability.
Food Animal Production and Energy Evolution
- Top Priority: Ensure economic and environmental sustainability of livestock enterprises by characterizing energy partitioning and evaluating opportunities for energy alternatives and more efficient use.
- Close energy loop in animal production and increase efficiency to minimize energy impacts on profitability.
- Develop technologies and methods needed to improve efficiency in food animal production.
Current and Promising Technologies in Genomics and Bioinformatics
- Top Priority: Develop animal agriculture specific tools for biological information, including software to manage large
complex datasets, across multiple species. Deploy relevant applications in order to improve data integration and visualization from disparate sources to support evidence-based functional genomics.
- Improved sampling and data collection procedures and protocols for metagenomics.
- Train and develop human capital to serve as next-generation scientists in genetics, biology, and bioinformatics.
Develop low-plex, low-cost, cost-effective genotyping technologies.
Food Animal Products: Nutritional Value, Healthfulness, Emerging Consumer Trends
- Top Priority: Enhance the healthfulness of animal products and identify factors that control variation in nutritive value of animal-source food products.
- Identify ramifications of changing nutritive value of animal-source products on human health.