Reproductive Performance - The overall goal is to improve reproductive efficiency of livestock, and poultry. Research will focus on improving reproductive performance of animals through genetics, nutrition, health management, and on management of environmental factors such as temperature and humidity. Research advances and new biotechnologies will be developed to reduce losses due to reproduction problems in all species and maximize output of high quality products in the form of meat, milk and eggs.
Maintenance and Enhancement of Genetic Diversity - U.S. livestock are produced in a wide array of environments and management systems. The efficiency of livestock and poultry production has dramatically improved due to advances in genetic selection programs, however, intense and highly successful selection generally leads to narrowing the genetic base of a species. Maintaining genetic diversity is essential for providing animal food and fiber products in the future by having livestock and poultry that will perform efficiently in different climates, production systems, and when exposed to new diseases and provide quality products that meet the changing demands of consumers. The National Animal Germplasm Program will identify, preserve, characterize, and distribute germplasm for future use. The associated information will be stored in the animal component of the GRIN (Genetic Resources Information Network) database. DNA of relevant germplasm will be stored and provided to researchers for genomic characterization and analysis. Research is needed to improve the viability of cryopreserved germplasm for some species.
Product Quality (pre-Harvest) - New knowledge is needed to understand the genetics
affecting product quality and improve the control and manipulation of
physiological systems supporting muscling, growth, metabolism, and mammary
function. Research will focus on identifying genes that influence product
quality, factors directing nutrient partitions toward protein and less fat,
enhanced nutrient composition in animal products and enhanced tenderness of
Genetic Improvement - The rate that populations can be improved is compromised by lack of objective definitions of improvement, inadequate understanding of quantitative and molecular mechanisms controlling component traits and interrelationships among the traits, and less than optimal methods to incorporate quantitative trait loci (QTL) in breeding programs including the ability to move novel genes from one population to another. The primary objectives are to accelerate selection response toward efficient and profitable production of healthy, nutritious, and and palaatable livestock and poultry products and improve the health and well-being of livestock and poultry through enhanced adaption to different production environments and greater resistance to disease.
Genomes - Animal Genomics will play an increasingly important role in assuring the continued profitability and competitiveness of U.S. animal agriculture. Identifying, mapping, and understanding the function and control of genes will permit the development of new genetic technologies and increase our ability to realize the full genetic potential of agriculturally important, food animals. Microorganisms are also an integral component of animal production and understanding the genomes of these organisms will enable the development of new products or management systems that will enhance profitabiltiy, quality, and environmental impact animal production and quality and safety of animal products. The objectives of this program are to map, identify, and sequence genes, determine the function of genes that influence animal production, and identify, sequence and determine the function of microbial genes that influence animal production. The genomic information will used in genectic selection programs, to alter or develop management systems and develop new products for animal production or new meat, eggs and milk products for human consumption.
Growth and Development - Suboptimal growth and development are limiting factors in animal productivity. Basic information regarding developmental processes in agriculturally important animals is largely lacking. The primary objective of the program is to increase our understanding of the biological mechanisms underlying normal animal growth development of the musculoskeletal system, lactation, digestion, and nutrient metabolism. New knowledge in these areas is needed to improve animal production and the control and manipulation of muscling, growth, metabolism, and mammary function. Research is also needed on specific nutrient regulated biological responses.
Nutrient Intake and Utilization - 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 functions. (e.g., reproduction, growth, and lactation), and 5) minimize non-productive nutrient losses.
Integrated 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 that will yield the greatest economic return. Computer models will contribute to identifying gaps in scientific knowledge. 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.