Project

GenTORE

Goal: ​GenTORE "GENomic management Tools to Optimize Resilience and Efficiency" will develop innovative genome-enabled selection and management tools to empower farmers to optimize cattle resilience and efficiency (R&E) in different and changing environments. The combined research and outreach program of GenTORE will make a contribution to addressing the challenges facing farming in a changing and volatile world.

Date: 1 June 2017 - 31 May 2022

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Cagla Kaya
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We had a very productive 2021. We hope we will continue and finish our project with lots of new results in 2022 which would increase the resilience and efficiency of European Cattle Farms. We wish you all a relaxing, healthy and happy holiday season with your loved ones.
 
Claudia Kamphuis
added a research item
Reliable prediction of lifetime resilience early in life can contribute to improved management decisions of dairy farmers. Several studies have shown that time series sensor data can be used to predict lifetime resilience rankings. However, such predictions generally require the translation of sensor data into biologically meaningful sensor features, which involve proper feature definitions and a lot of preprocessing. The objective of this study was to investigate the hypothesis that data-driven random forest algorithms can equal or improve the prediction of lifetime resilience scores compared with ordinal logistic regression, and that these algorithms require considerably less effort for data preprocessing. We studied this by developing prediction models that forecast lifetime resilience of a cow early in her productive life using sensor data from the first lactation. We used an existing data set from a Dutch experimental herd, with data of culled cows for which birth dates, insemination dates, calving dates, culling dates, and health treatments were available to calculate lifetime resilience scores. Moreover, 4 types of first-lactation sensor data, converted to daily aggregated values, were available: milk yield, body weight, activity, and rumination. For each sensor, 14 sensor features were calculated, of which part were based on absolute daily values and part on relative to herd average values. First, we predicted lifetime resilience rank with stepwise logistic regression using sensor features as predictors and a P-value of <0.2 as the cut-off. Next, we applied a random forest with the 6 features that remained in the final logistic regression model. We then applied a random forest with all sensor features, and finally applied a random forest with daily aggregated values as features. All models were validated with stratified 10-fold cross-validation with 90% of the records in the training set and 10% in the validation set. Model performances expressed in percentage of correctly classified cows (accuracy) and percentage of cows being critically misclassified (i.e., high as low and vice versa) ± standard deviation were 45.1 ± 8.1% and 10.8% with the ordinal logistic regression model, 45.7 ± 8.4% and 16.0% with the random forest using the same 6 features as the logistic regression model, 48.4 ± 6.7% and 10.0% for the random forest with all sensor features, and 50.5 ± 6.3% and 8.4% for the random forest with daily sensor values. This random forest also revealed that data collected in early and late stages of first lactation seem to be of particular importance in the prediction compared with that in mid lactation. Accuracies of the models were not significantly different, but the percentage of critically misclassified cows was significantly higher for the second model than for the other models. We concluded that a data-driven random forest algorithm with daily aggregated sensor data as input can be used for the prediction of lifetime resilience classification with an overall accuracy of ∼50%, and provides at least as good prediction as models with sensor features as input.
Isabel Casasús
added 4 research items
The behaviour of cows can be affected by environmental conditions, farm management and social structure of the herd. The aim of this study was to evaluate how the daily activity budget of beef cows was affected by feed restriction, energy balance and stage of lactation, by using an activity sensor. Thirty-one lactating Parda de Montaña beef cows were individually fed at a flat rate with a diet that met 100% of the energy requirements of the average cow. On months 2, 3 and 4 post-calving they were under feed restriction (55% of the requirements) during 4 days (d). All cows were equipped with a Medria® Axel collar accelerometer, which logged physical activity continuously at 5 min intervals throughout lactation. On each month data were collected before, during and after restriction (Basal, Restriction and Refeeding periods, 4 d each), selecting only the single most dominant activity among the 5 recorded (ingestion, rumination, rest, other and over-activity). The cows were clustered according to their performance and energy balance (EB) into Balanced (BAL) and Imbalanced (IMBAL) cows. Differences in ingestion, rumination and rest were found among periods, ingestion (142, 115, 138 min/d in Basal, Restriction, Refeeding) and rumination (385, 332, 371 min/d) decreased in Restriction period while rest increased (544, 626, 479 min/d). The magnitude of these changes differed among months (P<0.001), the largest differences in ingestion occurred in month 2 and in rumination and rest in months 3 and 4. Ingestion and rest were affected by the interaction between EB cluster and period (P<0.001). The IMBAL cows showed differences in ingestion (159, 121, 159 min/d in Basal, Restriction and Refeeding periods) and rest (529, 639, 447 min/d) whereas ingestion did not change among feeding periods in BAL cows (125, 110, 117 min/d) and differences in rest were lower (560, 614, 511 min/d). We can not ascertain whether this was partially the cause or the effect of their different energy balance. In conclusion, under feed restriction the time saved from eating and rumination was reflected in longer resting time, and patterns were affected by cow energy balance and lactation stage. Session 72 Poster 27 Session 72 Poster 26
Feeding winter diets at a flat rate is a common practice in beef cattle farms, all cows receiving the same diet irrespectively of individual requirements. This results in cows under a certain range of energy balance (EB), which can respond differently to a perturbation. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of a short feed restriction (4 d) in cows under different EB on milk fatty acid (FA) and the plasma profile. The study, funded by H2020 GenTORE, involved 31 lactating Parda de Montaña beef cows (626±48 kg body weight at calving). With d0 as the first day of restriction (58 days in milk), the cows received a diet that met 100% of the standard cow requirements (d-2 to d-1, Basal period), then 55% (d0 to d3, Restriction period) and then 100% again (d4 to d8, Refeeding period). Milk and blood samples were collected to determine the milk FA and plasma metabolites [glucose, non-esterified FA (NEFA), β-hydroxyburyrate (BHB), urea and malondialdehyde (MDA)]. The cows were clustered according to their previous performance and EB into 2 groups, Balanced (BAL) and Imbalanced (IMB) cows. Data were analysed with a mixed model considering the EB cluster, the period and their interaction. The milk FA were grouped by their origin (de novo, ≤C15; mixed, C16; and mobilization FA, C17). The de novo FA were affected by EB cluster, with greater values in BAL cows, whereas the mobilization FA were greater in IMB cows (P<0.05). During the Restriction, mobilization FA increased and de novo and mixed FA decreased (P<0.001), with opposite results in the Refeeding. Regarding the metabolic profile, only urea was affected by EB cluster, with greater content in IMB cows (P=0.03). NEFA increased in the Restriction; glucose increased and urea decreased in the Refeeding (P<0.001), with no clear differences in BHB and MDA (P≥0.10). There was a moderate correlation between the individual EB and de novo, mixed and mobilization milk FA (r=0.68, 0.60 and-0.71, P<0.001) and between NEFA and de novo and mobilization milk FA (r=-0.60 and 0.53, P<0.001). Milk FA and NEFA were quick-responding indicators of energy status in beef cows under feed restriction and refeeding periods. Relationships of stress during fall corral weaning with future productive performance in beef cattle Corral weaning is a popular and stressful husbandry practice in beef cattle operations, which is aggravated by the colder weather observed during late Fall in Canada. There is interest to learn about the individual variation of this response and the relationships with cattle performance over the production cycle. By using faecal cortisol metabolites (FCM, as an indicator of chronic stress during weaning), we monitored 146 crossbred calves (72 heifers, 30 bulls and 44 steers calves) with 4 to 6 months of age. At the weaning, calves were separated from the cowherd and trucked from the pastures to a handling facility. Calves were then weighed, and a rectal faecal grab was collected. Calves were commingled and housed in outdoor adjacent pens in groups of 10 to 12 calves. Three days after weaning calves were re-weighed and another faecal sample was collected. From this point, calves were submitted to their husbandry practice accordingly to each animal type category. Performance records were monitored in each category throughout their production cycle. Least square means comparisons were conducted to compare FCM and body weight at weaning and 72 h. Regression analysis, correlations and PLS will be applied to analyse the relationships with parameters measured around weaning with performance traits over the production cycle. Preliminary results, comparing FCM levels at weaning and 72 h later indicate an increase, from 38.7 to 67.8 ng/g across all the calves. Over this period, calves lost weight, shifting from 258 to 250 kg. Heifers had the highest (40.5 ng/g) increase in FCMs in response to weaning, followed by steers (26.1 ng/g) and bulls (14.9 ng/g). These results indicate that the FCM was sensitive to detect the stress due to weaning. Further analyses are under course to investigate the relationships of FCM with commercial traits in bulls, heifers and, in steers over the production cycle.
Aniela C. Honig
added a research item
Data on chemical body composition of cattle serve as a basis for recommendations on energy and nutrient requirements. Relevant data of growing dual-purpose Fleckvieh (German Simmental) bulls are scarce and originate from old trials, covering low rates of gain and live weights. Hence, the aim of the study was to analyze the body tissue distribution, chemical composition, and composition of body weight gain of growing Fleckvieh bulls within a 120–780 kg live weight range. Results showed that body composition changed during growth but was not affected by dietary energy concentration. Changes in body composition were characterized by increasing shares of fat tissue and ether extract. Body tissues as blood, organs, gastrointestinal tract, and bone proportionately decreased during growth, while muscle and tendon proportions remained constant. The bulls featured enhanced growth potential and high muscle and protein gain throughout the described weight range. The requirements for metabolizable protein in relation to energy decrease with increasing live weight of the animals.
Isabel Casasús
added a research item
Simon Moakes
added a research item
Certification in agriculture ensures compliance with tangible standards and should generate economic opportunities for farmers. This study quantifies the variable profit and efficiency impacts of organic certification in dairy farming across Europe, using farm‐level FADN data from 25 countries while accounting for heterogeneity through a class splitting model. Four distinct classes with dairy farm enterprises operating under similar production conditions were identified in order to assess gross margin and efficiency differences among certified and non‐certified farms. Depending on the nature of the selection bias, treatment effects were estimated either through an endogenous treatment model or through entropy balancing. The results suggest that organic certification increases gross margins for dairy farm enterprises in Europe, while slightly increasing technical efficiency in two out of four classes. These significant effects of certification on efficiency were estimated at 2% and 7%, respectively. As regards variable profit, effects range from to 66 Euros per cow to 234 euros per cow. In relative terms, this implies gains between 38% and 50% for farms classified into more cool or temperate zones and a gain of up to 182% for the farms assigned to the class that designates warmer climatic conditions.
Emre Karaman
added a research item
Background In dairy cattle populations in which crossbreeding has been used, animals show some level of diversity in their origins. In rotational crossbreeding, for instance, crossbred dams are mated with purebred sires from different pure breeds, and the genetic composition of crossbred animals is an admixture of the breeds included in the rotation. How to use the data of such individuals in genomic evaluations is still an open question. In this study, we aimed at providing methodologies for the use of data from crossbred individuals with an admixed genetic background together with data from multiple pure breeds, for the purpose of genomic evaluations for both purebred and crossbred animals. A three-breed rotational crossbreeding system was mimicked using simulations based on animals genotyped with the 50 K single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) chip. Results For purebred populations, within-breed genomic predictions generally led to higher accuracies than those from multi-breed predictions using combined data of pure breeds. Adding admixed population’s (MIX) data to the combined pure breed data considering MIX as a different breed led to higher accuracies. When prediction models were able to account for breed origin of alleles, accuracies were generally higher than those from combining all available data, depending on the correlation of quantitative trait loci (QTL) effects between the breeds. Accuracies varied when using SNP effects from any of the pure breeds to predict the breeding values of MIX. Using those breed-specific SNP effects that were estimated separately in each pure breed, while accounting for breed origin of alleles for the selection candidates of MIX, generally improved the accuracies. Models that are able to accommodate MIX data with the breed origin of alleles approach generally led to higher accuracies than models without breed origin of alleles, depending on the correlation of QTL effects between the breeds. Conclusions Combining all available data, pure breeds’ and admixed population’s data, in a multi-breed reference population is beneficial for the estimation of breeding values for pure breeds with a small reference population. For MIX, such an approach can lead to higher accuracies than considering breed origin of alleles for the selection candidates, and using breed-specific SNP effects estimated separately in each pure breed. Including MIX data in the reference population of multiple breeds by considering the breed origin of alleles, accuracies can be further improved. Our findings are relevant for breeding programs in which crossbreeding is systematically applied, and also for populations that involve different subpopulations and between which exchange of genetic material is routine practice.
Isabel Casasús
added 5 research items
Animal behaviour can be modified in response to stimuli like weather conditions, social structure and farm management. The aim of this study was to determine if routine management activities such as weighing affected cow daily behaviour. Twelve 4 year-old lactating Charolais beef cows received a diet that met 100% of their nutritional requirements during lactation. From the second month post-calving, cows underwent feed restriction (4 to 10 d), with feed allowance reduced to meet 50% of their energy requirements (Challenge periods, CH), and then returned to full feed (Recovery periods, REC). This was repeated 3 times at monthly intervals. Cows were equipped with Medria® Axel loggers which recorded physical activity continuously during the study at 5-min intervals, providing the most dominant behaviour among five activities (ingestion, rumination, rest, over-activity and other). Cows were moved from their pen to a scale and weighed at 13:30 on some days (BW, n=17 d) but not on others (W0, n=17d), equally distributed between CH and REC periods. The time devoted to the different daily activities was analysed with a mixed model (R Core Team, 2019) according to weighing (W0 vs. BW) and feeding management (CH vs. REC). Feeding did not influence ingestion time but affected both rumination (308 vs. 473 min/d in CH vs. REC, P<0.001) and rest (666 vs. 402 min/d in CH vs. REC, P<0.001). Only rumination time was longer in W0 than in BW days (406 vs. 375 min/d, P<0.05), implying that weighing around midday interfered mostly with the time spent by cows ruminating. The effects of both factors on other and over-activity were less evident. These results should be considered in order to schedule routine management to avoid and/or minimize interference with cattle natural behaviour patterns.
The aim of this study was to investigate the metabolic adaptation of lactating beef cows to short periods of undernutrition, and assess the accuracy of different indicators of fat mobilisation. The response of 16 Parda de Montaña adult suckler cows to a 4-day energy restriction was analysed in months 2 and 3 post-calving. Prior to restriction and after the challenge, the cows received a diet meeting 100% of their energy requirements (7.0 kg DM hay + 2.7 kg DM concentrate), and during the 4-day challenge the diet met only 55% of requirements (6.2 kg DM hay). With d0 as the start of restriction, on days d-2 (basal phase), d4 (challenge) and d8 (refeeding) several traits were recorded. Cows were body condition scored (BCS, 1-5 scale) and subcutaneous fat thickness was measured by ultrasound in the sacral area (BFT), at the P8 rump site (P8) and at the 13 th thoracic vertebra (T13). Plasma was collected for the analysis of β-hydroxybutirate (BHB) and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) resulting from fat lipolysis, and malondyaldehide (MDA), a product of lipid peroxidation. A mixed model with month, phase and its interaction as fixed effects and cow as the random effect was used. Thus the BCS and BFT were not affected by month or phase (P>0.05). Both P8 and T13 decreased from month 2 to 3 (P<0.001) and P8 also decreased from the basal to the refeeding phase (P<0.01). Hence, except for P8, external measurements of fat thickness only reflected changes in the long term. The metabolites were affected by the interaction between month and phase. The response to changes was immediate in month 2, but in month 3 the difference among phases was less intense in NEFA (P<0.001) and MDA (P<0.01), and tended to be inexistent for BHB (P=0.06). These are good indicators of lipid mobilisation under a negative energy balance in the short term, especially in early lactation. The individual variation of the adaptive ability of cows remains to be analysed.
INTRODUCCIÓN La ganadería de montaña es un componente clave en los socioecosistemas de montaña en los países desarrollados (Patru-Stupariu et al., 2020). Estos sistemas dependen en gran medida de los recursos locales renovables como principal fuente de alimentación, por lo que el cambio climático tendrá previsiblemente un alto impacto en estos sistemas, debido a las alteraciones de los regímenes de temperatura y precipitaciones y, por tanto, a la producción de pastos y forrajes (Dellar et al., 2018; Dumont et al., 2015). El objetivo de este trabajo es explorar el impacto potencial del cambio climático sobre los sistemas ganaderos de montaña del Pirineo Aragonés mediante la simulación de tres trayectorias tipo correspondientes a diferentes valles bajo los efectos de un escenario plausible de cambio climático. MATERIAL Y MÉTODOS Hemos adaptado el modelo NODRIZA para simular la dinámica de tres trayectorias tipo de explotaciones de ganado vacuno de la región (Muñoz-Ulecia et al., 2021) durante un periodo de 30 años. Este modelo permite evaluar efectos de diferentes estrategias de alimentación, uso de recursos naturales y manejo técnico a corto y largo plazo en aspectos clave de las explotaciones como el número de animales, la condición corporal y el balance económico (Villalba et al., 2006). A estas simulaciones de base hemos incorporado los efectos de un escenario de cambio climático hipotético basado en las condiciones climáticas esperadas en la región para 2050 bajo el peor escenario posible según las proyecciones más recientes (CMIP 6, Eyring et al., 2016) y sus efectos a largo plazo en pastos de montaña (Cantarel et al., 2012). Este escenario supone un cambio gradual en la calidad del pasto, considerando que en los primeros 10 años se incrementa su calidad (+15%), seguido por otros dos periodos de 10 años en los que esta calidad se reduce (-13% y-15%, respectivamente). RESULTADOS Y DISCUSIÓN Este ejercicio de exploración evidencia los potenciales efectos negativos del cambio climático sobre los sistemas ganaderos de montaña del Pirineo Aragonés a diferentes niveles. Estos efectos incidirán sobre la energía obtenida en los pastos comunales, disminuyendo la energía que obtiene el rebaño entre un 8,7 y un 19,4% en función del manejo de la explotación, lo que supondrá un descenso del peso vivo y la condición corporal de hasta el 20%. Además, la autosuficiencia alimentaria de las explotaciones disminuiría entre un 3,4 y un 6,5%. Finalmente, los beneficios económicos se verían disminuidos entre un 2,8 y un 30,4%. Es importante señalar que este estudio no ha considerado las medidas de adaptación que previsiblemente tomarían los ganaderos, que requerirían, entre otros, un incremento de los costes de alimentación para suplementar los pastos naturales y una modificación de las fechas de pastoreo para adaptarse a los cambios temporales de la producción primaria. CONCLUSIÓN Los efectos a largo plazo del cambio climático pueden disminuir la autosuficiencia e incrementar los costes de los sistemas ganaderos de montaña del Pirineo Aragonés. Se requieren adaptaciones en el manejo para fortalecer la resiliencia de estos sistemas ante el cambio climático.
Aniela C. Honig
added a research item
A feeding and slaughter experiment was conducted to evaluate the carcass tissue composition and meat quality of growing modern type Fleckvieh (German Simmental) bulls. For the study, 72 bulls were customary reared and for the fattening period allocated to a normal energy and a high energy treatment group with 11.6 and 12.4 MJ ME/kg DM, respectively. Bulls were slaughtered in a serial slaughter trial with final live weights of 120, 200, 400, 600, and 780 kg. The weights of carcasses, carcass quarters, beef cuts and their tissues (muscle, tendon, fat and bone) as well as meat quality traits were recorded. Results showed that carcass fat increased during growth primarily at the expense of bone and subsidiary muscle tissue, while the tendon content remained constant. Meat quality traits like IMF, meat color and tenderness were superior in high weight groups. Feeding high energy rations did not lead to increased fat accretion, but increased daily gain during certain stages of the fattening period.
Isabella Lora
added a research item
Sensor systems (SS) were developed over the last few decades to help dairy farmers manage their herds. Such systems can provide both data and alerts to several productive, behavioral, and physiological indicators on individual cows. Currently, there is still a lack of knowledge on both the proportion of dairy farms that invested in SS and type of SS installed. Additionally, it is still unclear whether the performances of herds equipped with SS differ from those of similar herds managed without any technological aid. Therefore, the aims of this study were (1) to provide an insight into SS spread among Italian dairy farms and (2) to analyze the performances of similar herds equipped or not equipped with SS. To reach the former goal, a large survey was carried out on 964 dairy farms in the northeast of Italy. Farmers were interviewed by the technicians of the regional breeders association to collect information on the type of SS installed on farms and the main parameters recorded. Overall, 42% of the surveyed farms had at least 1 SS, and most of them (72%) reared more than 50 cows. Sensors for measuring individual cow milk yield were the most prevalent type installed (39% of the surveyed farms), whereas only 15% of farms had SS for estrus detection. More sophisticated parameters, such as rumination, were automatically monitored in less than 5% of the farms. To reach the latter goal of the study, a subset of 100 Holstein dairy farms with similar characteristics was selected: half of them were equipped with SS for monitoring at least individual milk yield and estrus, and the other half were managed without any SS. Average herd productive and reproductive data from official test days over 3 yr were analyzed. The outcomes of the comparison showed that farms with SS had higher mature-equivalent milk production. Further clustering analysis of the same 100 farms partitioned them into 3 clusters based on herd productive and reproductive data. Results of the Chi-squared test showed that the proportion of farms equipped with SS was greater in the cluster with the best performance (e.g., higher milk yield and shorter calving interval). However, the presence of a few farms equipped with SS in the least productive cluster for the same parameters pointed out that although the installation of SS may support farmers in time- and labor-saving or in data recording, it is not a guarantee of better herd performance.
Isabel Casasús
added 2 research items
Improving feed efficiency in livestock production is of great importance to reduce feeding costs. Aims: To examine the relationship between ruminal microbiota and variation in feed efficiency in beef cattle fed concentrate-based diets. Methods: Residual feed intake of 389 fattening bulls, supplied with corn-based concentrate and forage ad libitum, was used to estimate animals’ feed efficiency. Feces and ruminal fluid samples, from 48 bulls chosen at random, were collected to estimate their forage intake and to determine their apparent digestibility, ruminal fermentation and microbiota. Those animals with extreme values of feed efficiency (high-efficiency [HE, n=12] and low-efficiency [LE, n=13]) were subjected to further comparisons. Alpha biodiversity was calculated based on the normalized sequence data. Beta diversity was approached through performing a canonical correspondence analysis based on log transformed sequence data. Genera differential abundance was tested with an ANOVA-like differential expression analysis and genera interactions were determined applying the Sparse Correlations for Compositional data technique. Key results: No differences in dry matter intake were found between the two categories of feed efficiency (P=0.699); however, HE animals had higher apparent digestibility of dry matter (P=0.002), organic matter (P=0.003) and crude protein (P=0.043). The concentration of volatile fatty acids was unaffected by feed efficiency (P=0.676) but butyrate proportion increased with time in LE animals (P=0.047). Ruminal microbiota was different between HE and LE animals (P=0.022): both alpha biodiversity and genera network connectance increased with time in LE bulls (P=0.005 for Shannon index and P=0.020 for Simpson index); which suggests that LE animals hosted a more robust ruminal microbiota. Certain genera usually related to high energy loss through methane production were found to establish more connections with other genera in LE animals’ rumen than in HE ones. Microbiota function capability suggested that methane metabolism was decreased in HE finishing bulls. Conclusions: Rumen microbiota was associated with feed efficiency phenotypes in fattening bulls fed concentrate-based diets. Implications: The possible trade-off between feed efficiency and ruminal microbiota robustness should be taken into account for the optimization of cattle production, especially in systems with intrinsic characteristics that may constitute a disturbance to rumen microbial community.
Mountain regions are characterized by their complex interrelations between human and environmental systems. In this coupled system, changes induced by political or socioeconomic transformations at different levels generate consequences for mountain livestock systems functioning, resulting in changes in their structure, management and economic performance which may alter their resilience. The analysis of the diversity of current states and past trajectories helps understanding how socioeconomic drivers at different scales affect mountain farm resilience which informs the development of optimal agricultural strategies for future changes. In this study we aimed to determine (i) the main changes occurred during the last three decades in cattle farming systems in Central Pyrenees in Spain, (ii) the main trajectories followed by farms during this period, (iii) the socioeconomic drivers of such evolution paths. A constant sample of 50 beef cattle farms of three valleys with different economic development pathways was surveyed in 1990, 2004 and 2018. Trajectories of evolution were analysed using multivariate statistical. Globally, main production orientation in the area changed from mixed dairy-weaned calves to specialized beef systems with on-farm fattening in the first period, and to sucker cattle farms in the second period. Other changes were related to: increase of herd size and grazing period and dependence of subsidies, decrease of the labour input and increase of gross margin per work unit. Besides this general trend, four different trajectories of evolution were identified: three of them specific to each valley and one that was common to all of them. A preliminary discriminant analysis showed that farm trajectories were driven by household size, farmer age and education level, farm dynamism and dependence of subsidies. Our results show that farm resilience is influenced both by internal social drivers at the farm scale and external policy drivers at the EU level.
Cagla Kaya
added an update
"Can you have your cake and eat it too? – #tools to get the most out of animal #resilience and #efficiency"
Don't miss out GenTORE session #EAAP2021 with many interesting presentations.
==> Session 22
 
Isabel Casasús
added a research item
Mountain regions are characterized by complex interrelations between human and natural systems. Political and socioeconomic drivers at various scales affect mountain farming systems functioning, resulting in farm structural changes (management, structure and economic performance). Longitudinal studies help fully understand the dynamics of these systems, identify their main drivers of change, and prepare for foreseeable future events. This study aimed to (i) analyse the main changes of cattle farming systems in the Pyrenees from 1990 to 2018, (ii) identify the different trajectories of farm evolution and (iii) to determine the key drivers of those trajectories at global, regional and household levels. We monitored 50 cattle farms in three valleys with different socioeconomic contexts, which were surveyed in 1990, 2004 and 2018. We observed clear changes regarding land and labour production factors. Over the 1990–2004 period, farming systems experienced a land use extensification (one-month increase of grazing season) and capital intensification (55% increase of livestock units (LU) per work unit (WU)) processes, coinciding with a switch from dairy to beef farming with on-farm fattening. Over the 2004–2018 period, land use stabilised but the capital intensification process went on (17% increase of LU/WU) while farms reduced their inputs (43% decrease of feeding costs per LU), in parallel to the decreasing importance of fattening. These changes allowed to globally maintain stable farm economic margins (around 40,000 €/WU). Multivariate statistical analyses enabled to identify four trajectories of evolution, three of them specific to each valley under study and a common across-valleys trajectory. These trajectories resulted from the interaction between global and regional drivers and household particularities. The CAP played a major role at the global level (representing an average of 70% of farm gross margin in 2004 and 2018), while tourism development and household characteristics were the main drivers at the regional level. Several farms responded by maximising their output related to the most limiting production factor (i.e. agriculture land or labour) in each valley. However, the across-valleys trajectory, which comprised 44% of farms, showed limited changes during the studied period. The ability of farms to maintain their adaptation capacity while keeping economic and social viability will determine the future of cattle farming in the region. Our findings highlight the need of reorienting agricultural policies towards promoting new entrants into mountain farming, better integrating CAP instruments with other EU sectorial policies and improving farm monitoring by disaggregating follow-up processes by agroecosystem and management regimes.
Duru Eroglu van der Schoor
added an update
A new post-doc position is available at UMR1213 Herbivores, INRAE about "Exploring associations between bovine feed efficiency and robustness".
UMR Herbivores is a joint research unit associating INRAE and the Higher Education and Research Institution VetAgro Sup. It contributes to the design of sustainable herbivore farming systems that seek to reconcile production efficiency, product quality and socio-economic viability with environmental protection and animal welfare.
The postdoctoral fellow will join the GenTORE project and work on experiments to test if resilience traits identified from productive and metabolic responses to short term nutritional challenges differ according to RFI scoring of animals in beef cows.
Deadline for application is 30 November 2020. For the application procedure and more details, please check our website: https://www.gentore.eu/news.html or the document attached.
 
Isabel Casasús
added a research item
The relationship between energy balance and the milk fatty acid (FA) profile is well established in dairy cows but has received little attention in beef cattle. We analyzed the milk fatty acid profile of 16 Parda de Montaña beef cows 2 mo post-calving in response to a 4-d (d) dietary restriction (55% of energy requirements, 6.2 kg dry matter (DM) hay/d), as compared with a previous basal and an 8-d refeeding period (100% of requirements; 7.0 kg DM/d hay + 2.7 kg DM/d concentrate). With d0 as the start of restriction, milk was sampled on days d-2 (basal), d1, d3 (re-striction) and d5, d6, d8 (refeeding). Individual FA were identified by gas chromatography, and sums of FA were calculated (saturated (SFA), mono-unsaturated (MUFA), polyunsaturated (PUFA), cis-MUFA, trans-MUFA, C4-C15 de novo synthesis FA and C16-C24 mobilization FA). These sums and the 4 major FA (C16:0, C18:1-9c, C18:0, C14:0) were analyzed using mixed models, with day as fixed and cow as random effects. All the results presented here were significant at P < 0.001. The milk FA profile responded immediately to changes in the energy balance and/or the diet. On d1 of restriction, the concentrations of SFA decreased, mainly due to a reduction in the de novo synthesis FA and C16. A concomitant increase in MUFA (associated with that of C18:1-9c, predominant in body fat) was observed. These changes, along with the increments in C16-C24 FA, indicate an enhanced fat mobilization from the adipose tissue. During the restriction, C18:0 and trans-MUFA decreased while cis-MUFA and PUFA increased, as a result of both the mobilization and the change in diet composition. The opposite occurred in the refeeding phase. On d5, MUFA decreased (due to the reduction in C18:1-9c) and SFA increased because of the rise in the de novo synthesis FAs and C16:0, reflecting the reversion of fat mobilization. At the end of refeeding (d8), the individual FA returned to basal concentrations, but the sum of C16-C24 mobilization FAs was even lower and that of C4-C15 de novo synthesis FAs was higher than basal values , indicating a possible "rebound effect" after restriction and refeeding.
Cagla Kaya
added an update
The COVID-19 pandemic did not stop our determination to disseminate knowledge on the latest discoveries related to Animal Science! The EAAP 2020 Annual Meeting will be held virtually from December 1st to 4th. Organisational and technical details are developed and will be provided next days.
Do not miss the chance to participate to the first EAAP Virtual Meeting!
 
Cagla Kaya
added an update
Would you be interested to join us in our open sessions during our Annual Meeting on 12 and 13 May? If yes, keep reading :)
12 May Tuesday
9:00-10:30 Young Scientist Session: Results on GenTORE research
13 May Wednesday
10:30-11:30 Workshop on “What could a future cow look like (Future Traits)?”
Please don't forget to register below for receiving the password.
 
Isabel Casasús
added 6 research items
Most beef cattle breeding programs focus on traits related to calving ease and calf growth during lactation and fattening, selected because of their economic importance, easy measurement and adequate heritability to allow for genetic improvement via classical breeding programs. Other traits can also play a major role on cow lifetime productivity, such as number of weaned calves or cumulative weaning weight, but they have low heritability and long generation intervals. In the context of a survey that analysed the efficiency and resilience of suckler cattle farming systems in Spanish mountain areas (GenTORE H2020), farmers were asked to score the relative importance (1-not important to 5-very important) of several traits in order to define the efficiency of their cows: age at first calving, calving ease, fertility, cumulative number of weaned calves, calf weight at birth, at 90 days and at weaning, calf carcass conformation, cow size, cow udder conformation, feet and legs morphology, docility and use of low quality feedstuffs. We also asked if they actually registered these traits, and if they provided the information to any breeder association. Preliminary results indicate that despite 67% of the farmers belonged to breeder associations, only 14% of them delivered data for their breeding programmes. In fact, data were registered by relatively few farmers (age at first calving by 48%, fertility and calf birth weight by 29%, calving ease by 24%, calf weaning weight by 19%), mainly in large farms (>100 cows) and those that fattened their calves. However, most of these traits were considered important or very important to determine cow efficiency, with the highest scores given to calving ease (4.9), fertility (4.8), and docility and cumulative number of weaned calves (4.3). Calf conformation (4.1) and adult udder (4.1) and leg conformation (4.0) were also considered important. Surprisingly, calf weight traits were scored lower (3.9 at birth, 3.2 at 90 days, 3.7 at weaning), and the less important trait was cow size (2.8). At this stage, some trends were found between scores given by farmers with different farm size (below vs over 100 cows), predominant cow breed (authoctonous vs specialized beef breed) and type of marketed product (weaned vs fattened calf).
In Europe, the number of mountain farms is decreasing due to various socioeconomic drivers. Although mountain livestock farming systems are generally considered as extensive, they are actually very diverse, influenced by both internal (use of natural resources, purchased feedstuffs, farmer's age, etc.) and external factors (agricultural policy, socioeconomic context, environmental conditions, etc.). In addition, farmers need to adapt to crucial challenges that affect agriculture globally, e.g. increasing risk of droughts due to climate change and higher prices of inputs due to market dynamics. Understanding farmers' views on the relevance of actions and strategies to face these challenges is key to study mountain farming resilience. The aim of this work was to analyse: (1) farm resilience strategies according to farmer response to climate and market changes; and (2) the influence of farms and farmer characteristics on those strategies. We carried out a survey on 54 beef farmers in the central Pyrenees (Spain), gathering information about farm structure, management and economic performance. We also measured farmers' perception on the importance of different actions to deal with: (1) 2-year-long drought; and (2) rise of input prices, using a Likert scale from 1 (not important) to 5 (extremely important). Specifically, we considered actions related to pastures and feed management, reproductive management, herd size, external advice, development of quality brands, diversifying farm activity or seeking for other sources of income outside farming. According to farmers, the most relevant actions to face droughts were using new areas of pasture (average relevance of 3.4) or reducing herd size (3.3), in contrast with the lower relevance of seeking for external advice (2.4). Regarding the increase of inputs' price, the highest importance was given to using new areas of pasture (4.2) and extending the grazing season (4.2), as opposed to developing a quality brand (2.6) and seeking for external advice (2.4) that had the lowest importance. Several farm and farmer profile characteristics influenced their views on the relative importance of actions to face these challenges; e.g. farmer age, size of utilized agricultural area, or farm type (fattening on-farm or not). How much is enough-the effect of nutrient profiling on carbon footprints of 14 common food products Life cycle assessment (LCA) of agri-food systems has received criticism on functional units in recent years; namely, those based on mass (e.g. environmental impacts per kg product) fail to reflect the nutritional value of individual commodities. Consequently, a wave of novel research has materialised over the last decade, with a shifting focus from product quantity to quality. Although no single methodological solution has been agreed upon nor uniformly adhered to, one of the more popular options is using nutrient profiling to estimate environmental impacts per proportion of daily nutritional requirements satisfied by a commodity. Derivation of nutrient indices, however, necessitates a selection of nutrients to be included, and the impacts of this decision on LCA results are not generally well-understood. The aim of this study, therefore, was to examine the effect of adopting four different nutrient density scores (NDS) on the relative carbon footprints (CF) amongst 14 food products commonly consumed as protein sources. Mass-based CF from 737 production systems around the world were sourced from a recently-published meta-analysis and recalculated using nutritional data obtained from USDA. NDS were calculated using either 6, 9, 11 or 15 nutrients to encourage and, in all cases, 3 nutrients to discourage (saturated fat, sodium and total sugar). Under the mass-based functional unit (100 g product), animal-derived products almost always showed higher CF than plant-based products. When nutritional quality was accounted for, however, product rankings became less clear-cut. For example, pork and tofu generated global averages of 1.141 and 0.324 kg CO 2-eq/100 g product, yet 0.145 and 0.149 kg CO 2-eq/1% NDS under the 15-3 scoring. This reversal of rank results from superior nutritional composition of pork over tofu and suggests that, if consumed according to optimal dietary intakes, less pork would be required than tofu to achieve the same uptake of nutrients. As more nutrients were added to the NDS, animal-based products tended to perform more favourably, indicating that mass-based evaluation of CF may be biased in favour of plant-based products. Session 41 Theatre 3 Session 41 Theatre 2
Cagla Kaya
added an update
Externally Funded Non Grant-in-Aid contract post, the indicative duration of which is 30 months.
Animal efficiency and resilience to external perturbations are fundamental to ensure global food security without necessarily intensifying the environmental footprint. Achieving these goals however requires optimised breeding programmes that appropriately weigh pertinent definitions of these traits. Moreover, successful breeding programmes are predicated on high accuracy of selection which can be achieved through large-scale data recording or supplementation of traditional genetic evaluation with genomic information. Furthermore, optimised breeding schemes and associated advanced mating plans that exploit genomic information can advance gains further.
GenTORE is a Horizon2020 EU project compromising 21 international research bodies with the objective of developing innovative genomic tools to optimise cattle resilience and efficiency. These tools, incorporating both genetic and non-genetic variables, will be applicable across a full range of systems and will thereby increase the economic, environmental and social sustainability of European cattle meat and milk production systems. The multi-actor team will develop tools for multi-breed genomic selection for efficiency and resilience traits, and on-farm management of breeding and culling decisions, and predicting the consequences for farm resilience of changing breeding and management. These tools are designed to be applicable under commercial conditions at the end of the project.
 
Cagla Kaya
added a project goal
​GenTORE "GENomic management Tools to Optimize Resilience and Efficiency" will develop innovative genome-enabled selection and management tools to empower farmers to optimize cattle resilience and efficiency (R&E) in different and changing environments. The combined research and outreach program of GenTORE will make a contribution to addressing the challenges facing farming in a changing and volatile world.