Special Edition: Environmental footprint reduction initiatives

Inter-university program 'helps meet urgent need for specialists' in sustainable animal nutrition

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Inter-university program 'helps meet urgent need for specialists' in sustainable animal nutrition
The interplay of academic institutes, industry and multi-disciplinary content means an EU post-graduate program is fielding highly trained experts to help ensure environmentally sound livestock production, said Aarhus University.

That Danish university is one of four European schools that have established the two-year MSc in Sustainable Animal Nutrition and Feeding (EM-SANF).

The program​, which took in its first student cohort in 2012, is also hosted by École d’Ingènieurs de Purpan in Toulouse in France, the University of Debrecen in Hungary and Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Jakob Sehested, associate professor at Aarhus University and EM-SANF program director, said there is an urgent need for specialists in the sustainable animal nutrition field at feed producers, government departments and educational institutions.

And he said cross-linkages between industry and institutions within agriculture strengthen graduate employability.

“We developed the course through extensive dialogue with industry partners and that level of cooperation means the content strongly reflects feed and livestock sector challenges. Moreover, students undertake an industry based internship in their second year, so on completion of the course, they will have a multi-focus view of animal nutrition,”​ he told FeedNavigator.

One of the critical learning outcomes, according to the course literature, is that students will be able to recognize and critically evaluate negative side effects of animal feeding upon humans, animals and the environment and can indicate possible ways to reduce these.

Sehested said there is worldwide interest in the program.

“We receive around 400 applicants every year, but we only take the top tier of graduates.  There is a lot of interest in the MSc from students in Asia and Africa. In 2012, we had 22 graduates on the program and this year we have 24,”​ he said.

The Erasmus Mundus program provides scholarships for the program for both EU and non-EU students. “We hope to increase the number of self-paying students though,”​ he added.

Multidisciplinary approach

The Masters has a multidisciplinary approach exploring livestock productivity, animal health, welfare and environmental concerns.

Students specialize in two out of four tracks, taking courses in the first year that will enable them to conduct research in their second year leading to their final thesis.

They have to choose between two partner institutions, focusing on either the feed market and economics or nutrition and the environment in the first semester and, in the second semester, the students continue at one of the other universities, choosing between feed and food evaluation and modelling nutrient metabolism.

“The students really benefit from the international scope of the program, with each institution specializing in a particular field,” ​said Sehested.

waginenen aarhus Msc
MSc in Sustainable Animal Nutrition course structure

Institutional expertise

The Aarhus University (AU) part of the degree program, he said, has a strong focus on animal nutrient utilization and on management and loss of nutrients from the agro-ecosystem and the effect on the environment.

The École d’Ingènieurs de Purpan in Toulouse looks at the economic performance of livestock farms, market chains and feed mill companies, while Hungary’s University of Debrecen concentrates on the biological and technological tools to improve digestibility and availability of nutrients in livestock.

Wageningen University’s provides expertise on modelling nutrient metabolism, added Sehested. 

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