The EU Animal Task Force comprises stakeholders from various parts of the livestock production chain and provides guidance on investment into livestock-related initiatives, with many specifically related to sustainability. Priorities identified by this group are as follows:1
- Efficient and robust animals: Improve resource efficiency of animals by more efficient and robust animals that are more healthy, are more resilient, have an increased well-being, have a lower feed conversion rate.
- Efficient feed chains: Create new opportunities to improve the efficiency of feed chains by optimizing the quantity of feed available for the animal, reducing losses, making better use of local resources, and creating new feed chains of alternative feed resources and byproducts of the food chain, thereby reducing wastes.
- Improving the use of residues in animal production: More efficient recovery and recycling of food, feed, water, and animal waste, including P losses and N emission reduction. Reduced energy cost across animal farming.
- Precision livestock farming: Develop and implement future options for innovation in livestock systems that will make Europe’s livestock systems more efficient and sustainable. Achieve integration of knowledge between biological, veterinarian, social, economic,
1 Animal Task Force. 2013. Research & Innovation for a Sustainable Livestock Sector in Europe. An Animal Task Force White Paper: Available at http://www.animaltaskforce.eu/Portals/0/ATF/documents%20for%20scare/ATF%20white%20paper%20Research%20priorities%20for%20a%20sustainable%20livestock%20sector%20in%20Europe.pdf. Accessed June 16, 2014.
engineering, and ICT scientists. Combine research and development with product and service development by matching academic and industrial communities.
Responsible Livestock Farming Systems
- Assessing EU animal production: Develop an integrated European approach for the assessment of current systems and their efficiency that will lay out the future options for improving and redesigning animal production systems that contribute to social, environmental, and economic gains. Gain a better understanding of the contribution of animal production systems to community sustainability, or fragility, in Europe, in terms of other values than food products and to include this in the development and evaluation of production systems, for example, the possibility to use livestock farms in “green care,” for recreation, for education, or development of rural areas and coastal zones. This requires the development of multicriteria assessment of livestock systems and food chains.
- Improving protein and energy autonomy of the animal production sector in Europe: Understand and find opportunities for improving protein and energy autonomy of livestock in Europe by the development of viable systems for optimizing the use of current and emerging resources such as co-products from nonfood industry (biofuels).
- Productive grassland-based system: Develop an integrated approach for grassland management that is cost-effective, environmentally sound and manageable, is essential in the context of the development of large-scale dairy enterprises with highly productive, healthy animals that benefit from high welfare standards, and in the context of remote rural areas that need to be grazed for landscape maintenance for recreation.
- Climate-smart animal production: Develop climate-smart, low-emitting, productive, resilient, and robust animal production systems.
Healthy Livestock and People
- Prevention, control, and eradication: Develop integrated approaches to disease control and explore the combined impacts (and tradeoffs) of combinations of individual approaches. Develop both the necessary elements of individual control systems (e.g., management procedures/biosecurity; vaccines; disease-resistant genotypes; feeding systems; etc.) and the cost-effective approaches required to
combine these elements into integrated systems for disease control. Create operating networks and paradigms and apply them to the appraisal of risks to European livestock (at national, transnational, and local levels) and human health of endemic, exotic, and emerging diseases.
- The microbiome, animal and human health: Enhance the understanding of the interactions in the gut between digestion products of animal feeds, residing microbes, and host immune cells (host genetics) with a view to identify routes for the implementation of this knowledge in the management of improved immune competence in livestock species and reduced health risk to humans.
- Nutritional quality of animal products: Improve the nutritional value and health-promoting properties of food of animal origin in sustainable production system (e.g., the fatty acid profile of animal products, the amount of essential trace elements such as iodine or selenium and also critical nutrients such as calcium, zinc, or folate) by understanding the interaction between nutritional composition of feed and genomics. Assess the impact of new feed resources on the nutritional value of animal products.
- Feed and food safety: Provide tools and practical guidelines to ensure supplies of food and feed that are microbiologically and toxicologically safe.
Knowledge Exchange Toward Innovation
- Knowledge exchange with farmers and industry toward innovation: Ensure that new technologies are developed in a context that improves the uptake of research results into practice, and allows for (a) a positive impact on farm incomes and (b) the exploration of new business models within systems of production and consumption.
- Improving systems for the implementation of “omics” tools: The “omics” approach has the overall goal to improve knowledge of the genetic, genomic, and transcriptomic control of traits in order to assist in breeding decisions and in herd management. The primary goal is to link the changes achieved in breeding with the expression of genes, quantification of proteins and pathways, and the metabolic outcomes of these changes. This will also provide us with tools to better understand and use the potential “omics” in creating a more sustainable livestock sector. Omics technologies give also new means to ensure animal well-being, health, and fertility by
understanding the interactions between the nutrient composition of the feed and animal genomics.
- Ensuring animal welfare: Evolve techniques and new concepts to improve the implementation of animal welfare in farming practices and to provide a level playing field regarding monitoring of animal welfare, in combination with other sustainability aspects (profitability, environmental load, etc.) in a global perspective. Deliver innovation of production systems to ensure intrinsic animal welfare in combination with other sustainability requirements. Enable the achievement of high standards of animal welfare across local production and societal circumstances.
Opportunities and Needs in “Excellent Science”
- Diet-host-microbiome interactions: Gain an understanding of the symbiotic functions of key members of the microbiota, their metabolism and ecology. Predictive understanding of the factors that affect interactions between the gut microbial community (and lung microbial immunity) and host function, and the means to exploit this understanding for practical benefit.
- Long-term consequences of environmental effects in early life: Better understanding of key environmental factors that impact later life; quantify the relative impact of early-life conditions on later health, welfare, and performance; and develop a chain approach to integrate this new knowledge in an integrated chain approach.
- Enabling the predictive understanding of phenotypic expression: Create capability across Europe for the development of theory and applications to deliver predictive understanding of phenotypic expression in mammals and birds.
- Immune regulation at mucosae: Ensure a preventive animal health care allowing a responsible use of medicines and antihiotics.