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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Program Summary
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Program Direction

Vision Statement:
Animal production systems that are biologically, economically, and environmentally sustainable.

Mission Statement:
Conduct research to provide knowledge, concepts, approaches, and technologies to improve the biological and economic efficiency of animal production, improve quality, consistency and safety of animal products, and ensure animal and environmental well being.

Program Rationale:
An economically viable animal-agriculture system is important to the quality of life of most United States citizens. Livestock products account for more than 50 percent of the protein, fat, and calcium consumed by the United States population. Research leading to discoveries and applications in production efficiency, sustainability, animal and environmental well-being, and high quality products are imperative if animal agriculture is to be economically viable. Nutrition (feeds and feeding) is the single most costly expense in animal production, often representing as much as 70 percent of the total cost of production. Research to improve production efficiency will enhance competitiveness. Improvements in the production efficiency of individual components are often realized in the total system, and often ensure a continuing supply of economical nutrient-dense products for the consumer.

Producers need to optimize the use of available resources to ensure the economic viability of their operations. Producers are challenged with integrating knowledge from diverse disciplines into production practices suitable for their individual operation. Research on food animal production systems assesses the interactions between nutrition, genetics, reproduction, physiology, microbiology, immunology, and molecular biology, and also related effects on animal health, productivity, and impacts to the environment. This national program will consist of both fundamental and applied animal nutrition research. The integration of the various scientific disciplines and the understanding of interactions is critical to the application of basic research on a production level. Computer models will be constructed to quantify the interrelationships and interactions of technologies from various scientific disciplines. The basic knowledge will be formatted for incorporation into data bases. The data bases will be used in decision-support aids or management products useful to United States producers.

Animal well-being and stress control are components of animal production. However, objectives of that area of research are covered in the Animal Well-being, and Stress Control National Program. The Animal Production Systems National Program shares problem areas with the Grazinglands Management National Program (for grazing animal performance and grazing behavior), and the Animal Manure, Waste Utilization and Management National Program (for nutritional and microbiological approaches for reducing excretion/loss of environmentally sensitive nutrients and odors). Components in the Animal Production System National Program are linked with the Animal Germplasm, Resources, Genetics and Reproduction National Program, (for interaction among genetics, physiology, and nutrition) and with the Aquaculture National Program (for interactions with specialized aquatic animal production systems).


Program Components

Program Components:

Animal Nutrition - Nutrition is the single most costly component in modern animal production. Suboptimal nutrition is a significant factor in the failure to realize genetic potential for production and increased susceptibility to disease. Economically optimizing nutrient supply and use is imperative for improving growth and reproduction, and to maximizing overall production efficiency. Research is needed in the following areas to improve animal nutrition: 1) chemical composition and availability of nutrients in feedstuffs, 2) nutritional requirements of grazing and non-grazing animals, 3) more efficient use of nutrients, 4) special attention to improving the use of environmentally-sensitive nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, copper, and potassium, and 5) increase understanding of nutrient partitioning between biological functions. (e.g., reproduction, growth, and lactation).

Integrated Animal Systems Research - Production output and efficiency of the whole animal represent the biological integration of nutritional, physiological, and genetic components. Factors that affect an individual component influence animal production, either partially or totally, through their effects on other biological components. It is imperative that research is conducted that develops our knowledge of how animals integrate nutrition, endocrinology, immunology, and genetic factors to optimize efficiency of nutrient use, reproduction efficiency, and product quantity and quality. With this knowledge, we can understand the animal as a production unit in developing new approaches and decision aides applicable to improving the sustainability of animal production systems.

Integrated Information for Animal Production Systems - The overwhelming amount of information about animal production efficiency is difficult to use without the aid of computer-based technology. This technology application is needed to improve management decisions and strategies which will yield the greatest economic return. A feed-composition database is needed to store data critical for sound animal nutrition. Data are needed on differences and trends in feedstuff nutrient content by region, climate, and plant variety. Computer models will contribute to identifying gaps in scientific knowledge. New generation computer models are needed for evaluating production options. Decision-aids are needed that integrate the components of animal production in modular formats that are compatible with farming systems programs. These decision-aids must be useful to farmers and producers.


Problems to be Addressed

Problems To Be Addressed:

  • Animal Nutrition
Nutrition is the single most costly component in modern animal production. Suboptimal nutrition is a significant factor in the failure to achieve genetic potential for production and increased susceptibility to disease. Economically optimizing nutrient supply and use is imperative for improving growth and reproduction, and to maximizing overall production efficiency. Research is needed in the following areas to improve animal nutrition: 1) chemical composition and availability of nutrients in feedstuffs, 2) nutritional requirements of grazing and non-grazing animals, 3) more efficient use of nutrients, and 4) special attention to improving the use of environmentally-sensitive nutrients such as phosphorus, nitrogen, copper, and potassium, and 5) increase understanding of nutrient partitioning between biological functions, (e.g., reproduction, growth, and lactation.

  • Integrated Animal Systems Research
Production output and efficiency of the whole animal represent the biological integration of nutritional, physiological, and genetic components. Factors that affect an individual component influence animal production, either partially or totally, through their effects on other biological components. It is imperative that research is conducted that develops our knowledge of how animals integrate nutrition, endocrinology, immunology, and genetic factors to optimize efficiency of nutrient use, reproduction efficiency, and product quantity and quality. With this knowledge, we can understand the animal as a production unit in developing new approaches and decision aides applicable to improving the sustainability of animal production systems.

  • Integrated Information for Animal Production Systems
Using the overwhelming amount of information about animal production efficiency without the aid of computer-based technology is not possible. This technology application is needed to improve management decisions and strategies. A feed-composition database is needed to store data critical to sound animal nutrition. Data are needed on differences and trends in feedstuff nutrient content by region, climate, and plant variety. Computer models will contribute to identifying gaps in scientific knowledge. New generation computer models are needed for evaluating production options. Decision-aids are needed that integrate the components of animal production in modular formats that are compatible with farming systems programs. These decision-aids must be useful to farmers and producers.


Program Objectives

Program Objectives:

  • Determine regulators of metabolic processes and nutrient use for growth, lactation, and egg production.
     
  • Improve understanding of nutritional mechanisms and limitations and develop means to improve reproductive efficiency in various production environments.
     
  • Identify important interrelationships among animals, environment, gastrointestinal microflora and feed resources to maximize feed use and animal performance.
     
  • Identify genetic, nutritional, endocrine, and metabolic factors influencing quality and consistency of products derived from animals.
     
  • Quantify nutritional needs of animals of different genetic potential in various environments and production systems.
     
  • Improve diet formulation and animal management for reducing animal excretion of nutrients and odor, while maintaining or improving production efficiency.
     
  • Develop resource input-animal product output relationships to identify optimum biological, economic, and environmental efficiencies.
     
  • Develop management decision aids useful to producers.
     

Projected Outcomes

Projected Outcomes/Impacts of Program Over Next 5 Years:

  • Information useful in assembling improved animal production systems.    
  • Reduced cost systems for managing replacement animals for the breeding herd.    
  • Improved animal production components for use in whole farm production models.    
  • Improved definition of dietary nutrient needs for food animals.    
  • Information on improved sources of nutrients and their bioavailability.    

Related Strategic Plan Elements

Relationship to the ARS Strategic Plan:

Outcome 1 An Agricultural System That Is Highly Competitive in the Global -
 

Objective 1.1 Strengthen Competitiveness - "Enhance the Competitiveness of the United States Agriculture and Food Industry in an Increasingly Competitive World Environment".
 

Strategy 1.1.1 Cost-Effective Agricultural Production Systems. - Develop New Knowledge and Integrated Technologies for More Efficient and Economically Sustainable Agricultural Production Systems of All Sizes.
 

Outcome 2 A Safe and Secure Food and Fiber System -
 

Objective 2.1 Secure Food and Fiber System. - Maintain a Safe and Secure Food and Fiber System That Meets the Nation's Needs and in the Future.
 

Strategy 2.1.1 Plant and Animal Production Systems - Improve Efficiency of Agricultural Production Systems to Ensure the Security of the Nation's Food, Fiber, and Energy Supply.
 


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