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Assessing sustainability of terrestrial livestock production


Specific Challenge: Due to the increasing demand for animal derived food and the mounting pressure over land use, further intensification and expansion of animal production is expected. Development of the livestock sector at EU and global level is challenging as it puts pressure on the environment, human health and the welfare of animals within the systems. Climate change is an additional pressure to the sustainability (e.g. productivity, health) of livestock systems. Increasing efficiency is required, while decreasing the environmental footprint and increasing quality, e.g. nutritional value. Livestock farming systems generate valuable products for human consumption including some from resources that cannot otherwise be converted into food (e.g. grass-based systems). They support the development of rural communities. Extensive livestock systems can contribute to the management and maintenance of ecosystems and may increase biodiversity.

Means to improve sustainability and productivity of terrestrial livestock systems need to be sought through breeding, nutrition and health. New phenotypes linked to sustainable animal productivity could be developed and integrated into breeding schemes. Precision feeding could increase production efficiency by adapting accurately the needs and the delivery of feed to individual animals. The development of new or alternative feeds, in particular as protein sources, has the potential to minimise reliance on imports and increase European self-sufficiency. Livestock diseases reduce the efficiency of animal production and they have a major impact in terms of economic costs and animal welfare. Vaccination can be an efficient way to control diseases and to reduce the use of antimicrobials. Deeper knowledge is required to develop safer, cheaper, novel, multivalent and more efficient vaccines.

Farming systems need to be (re)designed in a holistic manner to best reconcile the various demands concerning productivity, sustainability and societal values, for now and the future.

Scope: Proposals should address the following issues (C):

C. [2015] Assessing sustainability of terrestrial livestock production

Proposals should undertake an assessment of the sustainability and potential delivery of ecosystem services, social services, resilience, competitiveness and possible trade-offs of diverse EU animal production systems. The assessment should be holistic, encompass the main facets of the concerned systems, including international trade, extend to the dimensions of supply chains and territories and elaborate necessary indicators. Proposals should extend to socio-geographic and demographic changes of the concerned farming community and projections, as well as the expected place of animal products in the society and diets in the future, looking across the whole food chain. Proposals should establish a farm-level observatory and knowledge exchange networks on the sustainability of livestock linking with the European Innovation Partnership with a focus on innovative system solutions for short and long-term needs. Proposals should combine socio-economic work and case studies and sketch a roadmap for further research and policy making. Proposals should fall under the concept of 'multi-actor approach'[1].

The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU in the range of  EUR 5–7 for (C) would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.

Expected impact: Proposals should show how some, or all, of the following impacts will be achieved:

         New efficiency traits to be incorporated into breeding schemes of various farm species enabling selection of animals more adapted to environmental changes

         Make Europe frontrunner in re-use of by-products and protein rich resources for feed

         Minimize risk to public health by preventing and controlling animal diseases and reducing the use of antibiotics in the “One health” perspective

         Increased level of animal welfare

         Increased efficiency and profitability of animal agriculture

         Improved overall sustainability and innovative capacity of the livestock sector

         Increased societal acceptance

Type of action: Research and innovation actions

[1] See definition of 'multi-actor approach' in footnote 1 in the introduction of this Work Programme part.