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  • Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Feed-a-Gene (Adapting the feed, the animal and the feeding techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of monogastric livestock production systems)

Feed-a-Gene Report Summary

Project ID: 633531
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Feed-a-Gene (Adapting the feed, the animal and the feeding techniques to improve the efficiency and sustainability of monogastric livestock production systems)

Reporting period: 2015-03-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Feed-a-Gene aims to better adapt different components of monogastric livestock production systems (i.e., pigs, poultry and rabbits) to improve the overall efficiency and reduce the environmental impact. This involves development of new and alternative feed resources and technologies, identification and selection of robust animals that are better adapted to fluctuating conditions, and development of feeding techniques that allow optimizing the potential of the feed and the animal.
To reach this overall objective, the project will:
- Develop new and alternative feeds and feed technologies to make better use of local feed resources, green biomass and by-products of the food and biofuel industry.
- Develop methods for real-time characterization of nutritional value of feeds to better use and adapt diets to animal requirements.
- Develop new traits of feed efficiency and robustness allowing identification of individual variability to select animals that are more adapted to changes in feed and environmental conditions.
- Develop biological models of livestock functioning to better understand and predict nutrient and energy utilization of animals along their productive trajectory.
- Develop new management systems for precision feeding and precision farming combining data and knowledge from the feed, the animal, and the environment using innovative monitoring systems, feeders, and decision support tools.
- Evaluate overall sustainability of new management systems developed.
- Demonstrate innovative technologies developed in collaboration with partners from the feed industry, breeding companies, equipment manufacturers, and farmers’ organisations to promote the practical implementation of project results.
- Disseminate new technologies that will increase animal production efficiency, whilst maintaining product quality and animal welfare and enhance EU food security to relevant stakeholders.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Activities in WP1 have been mainly to plan the flow of samples between partners. An experiment with rapeseed meal (RSM) has been performed in China. Based on commercially available RSM and soybean meal (SBM) the conditions for exogenous enzymes have been selected and optimised to be used in the animal experiments in years 2 and 3. The exogenous enzymes used for the extraction of protein from green biomass (rye grass and red clover) have been selected and pilot scale production has been carried out. A pre experimental study for production of European grown SBM to be used in animal experiment has been coordinated.
In WP2, animal studies focussing on the development of new indicators for feed efficiency and robustness have been executed. Prototypes of equipment to measure individual feed intake in group housed animals (broilers and rabbits) are being developed. The variation in composition of the intestinal and faecal microbiota in pigs, rabbits, and poultry as affected by diet composition, and genotype and relationships between nutrient digestion and feed efficiency are established.
The first version of a model consisting of two distinct submodels (a digestive and a metabolic model predicting animal performance upon different dietary, genetic, and environmental conditions) has been made available for testing. A new module was developed to detect deviations in the animal’s response from an ideal (undisturbed) trajectory. Bayesian methods were tested to predict the individual variance and the future performance according to the estimated posterior distribution of parameters.
Development of the main components of management systems for precision feeding implementation has started in WP4. The architecture of a decision support tool has been defined and first elements were elaborated (real-time model basis, meta-data framework). Software and hardware architecture and required characteristic of precision feeders have been defined and a first prototype is currently being tested.
First results of WP5 suggest that responses to stress might depend on the genetic potential for feed efficiency. It has been shown that social effects contribute to the variability of feed efficiency. Significant associations between genomic variants and digestibility has been shown for broilers.
WP6 designed a Delphi survey to explore stakeholder views on the relative importance of various candidate indicators of the sustainability of livestock production. A market analysis exercise has been undertaken to explore the feasibility of European producers supplying various alternative protein sources that will be tested in the project.
Materials and tools necessary for communication and dissemination and a dissemination plan have been developed by WP7. A website serves as the central hub of communication and dissemination, and communication materials (brochures, press release) have been sent to stakeholders.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Feed-a-Gene combines aspects related to the diet, the animal, and the interaction between these to develop novel approach to increase feed efficiency and robustness of pig, poultry and rabbit livestock production systems. Feed-a-Gene identifies and characterizes alterative and novel feed ingredients for monogastric animals, and will develop combinations of feed technologies that improve the nutritional values of these ingredients. These feed resources and technologies will favour the protein autonomy and makes Europe a front-runner in using feed resources that are not or less in competition with other uses.
At the animal level, Feed-a-Gene will examine the relative importance of the genetic components of feed efficiency in a new context. Feed-a-Gene will also develop and evaluate indicators of feed efficiency, animal robustness, and welfare. We will also study the nature and background of variation among animals and we will develop novel traits related to variation in feed efficiency and robustness between individual animals and between groups of animals. These indicators can be incorporated in breeding strategies and in on-farm management practices that can be applied on a large scale, thereby contributing to the efficiency and profitability of animal agriculture.
Feed-a-Gene will develop a common modelling platform to predict nutrient utilisation in pigs and poultry, while accounting for differences that exist among livestock species and production conditions. We will also predict how the animal responds to a challenge and how animals differ from one to another within a herd/flock.
Real-time information about diet and animal in combination with modelling approaches will be used to develop novel management techniques such as precision livestock feeding and farming. These techniques allow to account for the needs of individuals and groups of animals, and contribute greatly to improving feed efficiency and animal welfare, and reduce environmental impact.
The solutions proposed by Feed-a-Gene will be assessed in a novel way using sustainability indicators. These indicators will be analysed using life-cycle analysis and opinions from different experts and stakeholders will be quantified and qualified. State-of-the-art analytical techniques will allow identifying different population segments more or less willing to accept new technologies, thereby assessing the innovative potential of the proposed solutions. These unique insights into the preferences and attitudes of farmers and consumers will help to fill in gaps in knowledge about stakeholder responses to new livestock feeding strategies.

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