1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this project is to research and develop scientific information to increase efficiency of production while maintaining safe, lean, high quality beef cattle, sheep and swine and minimize the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. The University of Nebraska and the USDA, ARS have had a strong cooperative program at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) since the development of the Center. All of the beef cattle, sheep, and swine are owned by the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station. The University provides personnel to produce feed and care for and manage of the livestock in the studies, as well as to gather and manage field data. ARS provides the overall management of the Center, facilities, scientific leadership and laboratory expertise. This cooperative effort utilizes the resources of both parties in a very efficient manner to support a multidiscipline-oriented large animal research program. This cooperative agreement is funded by all the research projects at the Center. The research will be conducted at the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) and other mutually agreed upon sites. Research conducted at USMARC and the mutually agreed upon sites will be collaborative efforts in which the University and ARS co-lead in the preparation, planning, and execution of experiments.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Beef cattle, sheep, and swine will be utilized to develop new understandings of animal genetics and how these impact selection criterion, reproduction, animal health, food safety, animal stress, and nutrient management strategies. Discoveries potentially will enhance animal productivity in concert with the ecological and economic sustainability of animal agriculture. Results will be summarized and disseminated to producers, researchers, and other interested parties. The University will provide qualified personnel to care for and manage livestock involved in studies as well as the safe operation, care and maintenance of required infrastructure such as vehicles, scales, fences, corrals, rangeland, roads, crop land, buildings, and associated equipment; to gather and manage field data in conduct of research projects; and to provide agriculture crop production and utilization support. ARS will provide scientific leadership, laboratory expertise, necessary technical supervision, land, facilities, and equipment required to conduct research, and manage, maintain, and make available data from individual experimental animal data bases required to address cooperative research efforts. Specific projects include long term genetics experiments designed to characterize different breeds and identify genes that affect production and carcass traits; identifying methods to improve reproductive efficiency in cattle, pigs, and sheep; improving nutrient utilization, the impact of the production system on the environment, and animal well-being, and reducing animal stress; reducing the prevalence of pre- and post-harvest food safety pathogens in meat; developing laboratory and bioinformatics tools to advance genomics and functional genomics research in cattle, pigs, and sheep; and improving the health of farm animals. Participant In-house project numbers: 5438-31000-082-00D; 5438-31430-004-00D; 5438-32000-026-00D; 5438-32000-028-00D; 5438-42000-013-00D; 5438-31000-086-00D; 5438-31000-083-00D; 5438-31000-084-00D; 5438-31000-080-00D; 5438-32630-005-00D; 5438-63000-011-00D and 5438-32000-029-00D.
3. Progress Report
All U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) projects contribute to this cooperative agreement. Research accomplishments have been identified for each of the CRIS projects in each respective annual report. This is an over-arching project that defines the relationship between the University of Nebraska and USMARC. It covers National Programs 101 (Food Animal Production), 103 (Animal Health), 108 (Food Safety), and 206 (Manure and Byproduct Utilization). The University of Nebraska (UNL) and the USDA, ARS have had a strong cooperative program at USMARC since the development of USMARC. University personnel at USMARC are maintaining a concentrated effort to improve long-term sustainability of pastures. A grass management specialist presented management ideals for those involved with pasture management. The Forage Committee has quarterly planning meetings and distributes facts on specific management topics. USMARC maximizes the nutrient potential of livestock manures through testing and controlled applications of manures. Manure application is fully credited for fertilizer value which substantially reduced overall commercial fertilizer use. Optimization of water use was achieved by using soil moisture blocks to manage irrigation. Cattle Operations evaluated ration formulation to optimize feed supplements, use of distillers grains, and feed delivery during wintering of cow herds. Use of ATVs to reduce pasture erosion potential and for limited animal handling was shown to be beneficial and has been expanded to additional facilities. Horse handling safety training was also a focus; this was implemented initially for new employees, then extended to all riders. Sheep Operations continues to work to minimize losses to predators. Llamas were added as flock guard animals and more dogs with minimal human exposure have been procured to live with flocks. For a second year, a wide range of ear tag systems was evaluated for positive visual identification of sheep. Swine Operations upgraded electronic data collection and initial electronic identification of swine was successfully implemented in a feeding behavior study. Also, swine conception rates have reached target goals through improved techniques and management practices. Safety throughout the USMARC system received increased attention with addition of a safety specialist. A forklift safety training program for all operators also resulted in the identification of serious forklift deficiencies and the procurement of new equipment. This cooperative effort has continued to utilize resources of both parties in a very efficient manner to support a multidiscipline oriented large animal research program. Monitoring activities include regular meetings with USMARC operations and research staff.