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Integrated Research to Strengthen Global Competitiveness of American Animal Agriculture


Production efficiency and high-quality products form the basis for profitability of American farms and ranches and ensure global competitiveness of the U.S. animal agricultural industry. Market and policy research positions producers and processors of animal products for success in the world marketplace. Developing new and innovative animal products enhances economic well-being of producers, provides new entries into the global market, and boosts local economies. Predicting  social and ethical perceptions and economic viability of production systems complimented by aggressive technology transfer assists stakeholders in shaping the future of American animal agriculture.  Our intent here is to highlight some of the United States Department of Agriculture•s current implementation of the Food Animal Integrated Research 2002 (FAIR 2002) Goal 1: Strengthen Global Competitiveness.

A major portion of Federal formula funds administered by the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES) and allocated to Land Grant universities support agricultural programs that contribute to enhanced profitability of farms and ranches and strengthening global competitiveness of U.S. animal products. Most problems facing animal agriculture can not be solved by one agricultural experiment station (AES) or Agricultural Research Service (ARS) laboratory.  Important issues are frequently addressed through coordinated efforts organized as Multistate Projects. There are approximately 65 Multistate Projects yielding new knowledge to enhance global competitiveness of U. S. animal agriculture.  Nearly all of these projects are national in scope, multi-disciplinary, and involve scientists from AES and ARS locations throughout the U. S.

The ARS National Programs focus research on problems of broad importance to stakeholders. These National Programs identify virtual research teams, across commodities and locations, that expedite and enhance the quality of research to solve problems and strengthen global competitiveness of American animal agriculture. The ARS Food  Animal Production National Program is geared toward increasing efficiency of animal production (1) such that food and fiber can be produced using fewer inputs thus lowering production costs and (2) to meet demand of an increasing world population. Goals of ARS Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products National Program are to (1) maintain quality and enhance marketability of harvested agricultural commodities and (2) develop value-added food and non-food products and processes that enhance the economic viability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.

Several CSREES Competitive Grants Programs support Goal 1.   These include programs within the National Research Initiative (NRI) and the Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems (IFAFS). The NRI funds basic and applied research in Animal Reproduction, Animal Growth and Nutrient Utilization, and Animal Genome and Genetic Mechanisms. These programs are primarily geared toward enhancing production efficiency and economic strategies at the farm and ranch level. The NRI•s Markets and Trade program funds projects that position producers and processors to succeed in the global market. The NRI•s Food Characterization/Process/Product Research program supports development of new value-added products. The IFAFS Agricultural Genomics Program supports multi-investigator projects inanimal genomics with applicationat the farm and ranch level.  The IFAFS Farm Efficiency and Profitability Program supports projects aimed atimproved management strategies, especially those benefittingsmall farms and ranches.

Objective 1: Enhance production efficiency and economic strategies at the farm and ranch level.

Research at many state and federal institutions has resulted in national genetic evaluation programs for: (1) dairy cattle by ARS, (2) beef cattle by Colorado State, Cornell, and Iowa State Universities and University of Georgia,  (3) sheep by Virginia Tech, and (4) swine by Purdue University. Ongoing collaborative efforts supported by ARS and CSREES (e.g. Multistate Projects NC-209, NC-220, and S-284), are leading to integration of information from molecular markers,  improved prediction methods, and development of new breeding objectives to accelerate progress toward greater efficiency and profitability of commercial production.

Two Multistate Projects involving extensive collaboration among scientists at 6 ARS Labs, 30 AESs, and several other universities have produced and continue to develop comprehensive genetic linkage maps for agriculturally important species. NRSP-8 focuses on livestock species and NE-186 focuses on aquaculture species. These maps have facilitated the work of scientists worldwide to identify locations on chromosomes that contain genes that affect production traits such as disease resistance, reproductive efficiency, growth, and carcass composition. Accelerated genetic improvement of these production traits resulting from marker assisted selection and introgression holds the promise of increasing production efficiency and thereby improving profitability and global competitiveness of U. S. animal agriculture.

Feed is the single largest variable cost and manure is a significant source of adverse environmental impact in animal production systems. Research aimed at improving conversion of feed into product is an integral component of research at virtually all ARS and CSREES funded locations. For example, an integrated team of ARS scientists and colleagues at Cornell University, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin with broad disciplinary expertise in animal nutrition, plant genetics, molecular biochemistry, agronomy, and systems analysis are addressing the unique advantages of maximizing use of forage nutrients for milk production. Complementary efforts on the environmental and economic impacts of nutrient management on dairy forage systems are conducted in Multistate Project NE-132.  In most animal production systems, producing excess fat is wasteful of feed energy. Researchers from ten states, ARS, and Canada are engaged in collaborative research on regulation of nutrient use in food producing animals to enhance biological efficiency of producing high-quality products that meet changing consumer demands (Multistate Project NE-148).

Collaboration among ARS scientists and colleagues at Texas A&M, Colorado State, and South Dakota State Universities produced the Decision Evaluator for the Cattle Industry (DECI), a simulation based decision support tool. The DECI system is widely adopted as an aid in teaching beef production classes and by beef producers for evaluating alternative production practices.

The CSREES, ARS, and stakeholders collaboratively planned the USDA Aquaculture Program to ensure its relevancy and continuity.  The Regional Aquaculture Centers of CSREES linked to the network of the ARS National Research Centers provide  research, technology development, and extension services to support a globally competitive aquaculture program.

Objective 2: Position producers and processors of animal products to succeed in a global market.

Enhancing global competitiveness of U.S. produced red meat is addressed in Multistate Project W-177, a collaborative effort that includes ARS, the Economic Research Service, and fifteen AESs. The focus is to add value to red meat products by reducing industry generated defects, extending shelf life of retail cuts, increasing value-added product development, and improving packaging and shipping containers to prevent product deterioration. This research is complemented by evaluating transmission of economic signals throughout the market in analyzing the efficiency of current market structures and the impact of alternative pricing systems, market structures, trade agreements, and price reporting/discovery systems. Impacts of structural changes in the dairy industry are also being evaluated.

Scientists funded by the NRI are engaged in research investigating foreign and domestic policy issues surrounding international trade in animal products. These studies, conducted by investigators at Iowa State, Purdue, and Cornell Universities, and University of Connecticut, promise to provide producers and processors of animal products with information needed to ensure competitiveness of U.S. agricultural commodities in international markets. Domestic and international consumer perceptions of foods produced from genetically modified animals is under investigation by IFAFS funded researchers at (1) Mississippi State University and collaborators in the United Kingdom, and (2) South Dakota State University and collaborators in Iowa, North Dakota Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

Objective 3: Develop innovative animal products for specialized markets to boost local economies.

ARS scientists at the Eastern Regional Research Centerapply biochemical, biotechnology, molecular modeling, and food engineering approaches to problems in dairy foods research and in adding value to waste products from rendering. Advances in knowledge gained lead to: (1) beneficial changes in dairy foods, (2) cost-effective production of biodegradable polymers, and(3) derivation of animal fats and restaurant grease into bio-diesel fuel, and other value-add products. Outcomes from this research benefit dairy and meat animal producers, strengthen and create new collateral industries, and ultimately enhance the social and economic well-being of the public.

During fiscal years 1998-2000, the NRI funded projects to improve surimi processing by  bioengineering protease inhibitors; develop thermal-stable species marker proteins to detect adulteration of meat; examine application of high performance tangential flow filtration to purify individual whey proteins; and develop a process to produce food proteins for humans from low value fish muscle sources through pH modifications. Technical and economic feasibility of employing enzyme-mediated reactions to produce modified oils and fats were assessed by scientists in NRI funded research. These efforts increase the value of the original fat or oil by replacing saturated fatty acid residues that are responsible for adverse physiological effects with residues that are either benign or confer preventative or therapeutic health benefits.

Palatability of animal products is an important determinant of consumer demand. Enhanced palatability through managerial intervention and new processing techniques create new products, increase demand for products of animal agriculture, and ultimately benefit local communities by sustaining economically viable production enterprises.  Several NRI funded projects and research by ARS scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Meat Animal Research Center, and Russell Agricultural Research Centerfocuses on sensory, biochemical, and physical properties of muscle foods in order to predict and enhance tenderness thereby adding value to many cuts of meat currently marketed at reduced prices due to poor eating quality. In addition, scientists at the ARS Southern Regional Research Center are identifying problematic microbial metabolites in aquaculture and developing methods to forecast/avoid biosynthesis of MIB/geosmin, other "off-flavors", and the growth of problematic taxa.  They are also developing methods that avoid/antagonize the induction of "off-flavor" metabolite biosynthesis and increase their depuration from fish.

Objective 4:  Help producers, policymakers, and other stakeholders decide what animal agriculture will look like in the future.

Technology transfer to shape future production systems is an integral component of ARS programs in Food Animal Production and in Quality and Utilization of Agricultural Products. Most Multistate Projects and IFAFS grants funded by CSREES have an active outreach effort and/or have extension workers as official members to assure that new knowledge is transferred to producers. Important components of these efforts are the Agricultural Databases for Decision Support that provide knowledge resources for dairy, beef, swine, sheep, goat, poultry, and catfish industries.

The ARS Eastern Regional Research Center seeks to improve the competitive position of the domestic tanning industry by reducing the cost of environmental compliance though modification of pre-tanning processes and by working with the livestock and packing industries to improve the quality of domestic hides. An onsite research and training tannery serves to scale up laboratory experiments for commercial operations.  In cooperation with the Leather Industries of America, Inc., American tannery industry personnel receive training at theLab to transfer newly developed technology to the private sector.


The United States Department of Agriculture, through its programs administered by ARS and CSREES is responsive to priority needs for research identified in FAIR 2002.  Research by each agency conducted both independently and collaboratively enhances production efficiency and economic strategies at the farm and ranch level. New strategies, developed by ARS and CSREES funded scientists, to match characteristics of products from animal agriculture with demands from the international marketplace position producers and processors of animal products for global success.Development of new products or new technologies to enhance quality of existing products lead to innovative animal products for specialized markets and boost local economies. By transferring knowledge gained from research, devising strategies for matching characteristics of animal products with consumer demands, and developing new and innovative products ARS and CSREES funded scientists provide raw materials forproducers, policymakers, and other stakeholders to shape the future of U.S. agriculture.

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