The USDA announced the awarding of $15.7m in grant funds for 40 researchprojects at the end of July. The funds came through the department’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which was included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
The grant program supports innovation in animal production because the industry, reaching from “farm to fork,” accounts for 3.4% to 6.3% of US gross domestic product annually, said Mark Mirando, national program leader in the division of animal systems with NIFA. “The sale of livestock and livestock products represents approximately $170 to $190bn annually to US farmers and ranchers, and the value of animal products to the US economy increases as those animal products move from farm to fork,” he added.
“In order to maintain America’s continued production of a safe, nutritious, abundant and affordable food supply, it is essential that USDA invest in innovative foundational and translational research in animal agriculture to improve spto meet the increasing demands of US consumers and a burgeoning global population,” he told FeedNavigator.
Products generated through animal production also offer an export opportunity to US producers, he said. “This export opportunity will increase markedly in the future as developing nations continue to increase their demand for high quality animal protein while the US is one of only a half-dozen, or so, countries globally with the ability to produce a surplus of animal products,” he added.
Funded feeding projects
Several feed and nutritional projects were among those to see funding support in the most recent grant awards, said the USDA.
The efforts include a project looking to understand the role of dietary leucine in the development of calves, the department said. The goal being to find a way to improve early growth for dairy or beef calves through feed supplementation.
Another feeding study looks at the use of the feed additive monensin in a cyclical feeding system as opposed to continual feeding, the department said. The project aims to improve efficiency in beef cattle production.
Research and development goals
A goal of the research-funding program is to support foundational and translational research, said Mirando. Those types of research can improve production efficiency, lower costs, improve farm or ranch profitability and address environmental sustainability.
“Translational research provides solutions to current challenges faced by livestock producers,” he said. “In contrast, foundational research is critical to build the foundation of knowledge for future translational research to address new challenges that arise in the future.”
Additionally, the funded projects cover work to improve feed or animal nutrition because of the cost involved for feed, he said.
“Feed costs represent by far-and-away the greatest economic input into most livestock operations, in terms of non-fixed costs,” said Mirando. “Because of changing environments, new livestock management practices, and genetic improvement of both livestock and feed ingredients, nutrient requirements of livestock are continuously changing and the nutrients supplied by some feed ingredients has also changed.”
Work also needs to be done to assess the potential of by-product for use in animal feed, he said. The feed industry currently uses elements from human food processing and the biofuels industry as ingredients in animal feed, but ongoing research is needed to expand that opportunity.
“Continued research in animal nutrition is critically required to determine the changing nutritional requirements of animals, identify appropriate use of alternative feed ingredients, develop feeding strategies for changing environments or management conditions,” he said.