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EAAP for FP7

AID MEMOIRE
Programme Framework 7
High level theme 2 “Food, agriculture and biotechnology “
Priority Areas in Animal Science and Animal Production

The present document is based on the knowledge and evaluation of past and current developments and trends in animal research and production carried out by the most prominent European scientists and professionals. The Priority Areas in Animal Science and Animal Production have been selected in an attempt to visualise science and animal production in the foreseeable future as well as impacts of the current and announced reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy. An evaluation of the long-term outcome of our current actions and decisions as well as forecasting the character and dynamics of animal science itself and the nature of the technological, environmental, industrial and social framework have also been taken into account.

The Priority Areas presented in this document include a number of indications regarding potential themes, part of which have already been included in the current research as well as problems requiring additional research aimed at developing new science based technologies and production methods. They are complementary to areas covered by Platforms on sustainable animal breeding and reproduction and on animal health, and presume adequate continuation of research in areas funded within the previous Framework Programmes.

Animal welfare

In recent years, there has been a growing public concern regarding methods in which animal products have been produced and how food animals are treated in the production process. Scientific community and both national and EU funding agencies in response to the public concern regarding animal welfare have initiated several research projects, some of which have been reported at the 55th EAAP Annual Meeting (Bled, Slovenia, 2004) including some projects funded within the current Programme Framework 6. Results of the majority of projects as well and continued attention paid by the public indicated the need for the further improvements in the concept of animal welfare and for a new approach in relation to the social role and character of animal production. This requires intensification of research in areas related to animal welfare. In the first place, there is a need for standards for animal welfare based on sound scientific evidence and research data. The need for standards in this field is evident both in intensive and in extensive systems. Development of standards for animal welfare requires more intensive basic and applied research in a number of fields such as animal genetics (e.g. interaction between genotype and environment, genetics of adaptability), animal physiology, etology, animal health and management, production systems. On the other hand, there is a need for the establishment of reliable methods of measuring animal welfare at the farm level and at the level of an individual animal.

New and improved knowledge of factors determining animal welfare will have the direct and immediate implementation in production technologies. It should be disseminated to producers and farming community so as to contribute to the introduction of necessary adaptation of production methods, including changes in production systems. Some of technical norms and requirements will have to be imposed by EU regulations, together with standards to be adhered to and methods of measuring animal welfare. Impact of these adaptation on costs of production and the economy of animal industry and on global competitiveness of the EU animal production should be monitored and analysed using existing tools and methods as well as new ones to be developed by related scientific disciplines and research.

Consumers and the general public should be continuously and in the appropriate manner kept informed on new knowledge as well as on production technologies applied and measure undertaken by producers and legislators to ensure animal welfare. Increased awareness of the European consumers on specificity, safety and quality of animal products coming from the European farms as well as transparency with regard to ways in which they are produced and controlled could greatly contribute to more balanced consumption of products in accordance with their origin.

Genetic diversity

In the future, the breeding of small and rare animal breeds will play a major role due to its increased economic efficiency and the consideration of social and environmental factors: landscape conservation and agro-ecosystems management, their contribution to the multifunctional character of agriculture, i.e. maintenance of rural cultural diversity and rural development and tourism, etc.

Many research areas will be dedicated to this field of activity. Improved methods of monitoring the endangerment status of local autochthonous farm animal genetic resources should be further developed. Research in the field of relations between genetic diversity and characteristics of local genetic resources and the environment should be further enhanced. The on-going conservation systems should be analysed and evaluated in order to obtain the optimisation of resource utilisation in conservation programmes. A standardised European performance-testing regime suitable for small animal populations, small farms and endangered breeds, and documentation of characteristics of endangered farm animal breeds and populations will be developed for in situ conservation and sustainable utilisation.

Autochthonous processing technologies should be improved so as to increase the quality and safety of products from local animal breeds. New methods and technologies for the enhanced protection and traceability of local and typical products, including DNA techniques, should be developed.

Climatic change and animal production

The influence of climate change and variability on livestock production systems is expected to be larger in the future and especially in marginal areas, mainly due to the strong link with local environment and the scarce access to technologies and financial support. Incorporation of information and strategies regarding responses to weather challenges will be necessary for the future of livestock management. A good strategy for adapting climate variability can potentially compensate some adverse climate change impacts, and therefore food security and economic efficiency will be improved.

Adaptation of livestock farming systems to climate constraints must include the possibility of adapting the livestock. The genotype components of the interaction between the animals and the environment must be considered. A long-term approach to be sustained should be dedicated to investigate strategies for livestock production in areas in which there will be high climatic constraints. The research should be based on the study and identification of genes associated with the acclimation of domestic animals to thermal stress. Breeding programs to increase resistance particularly to heat stress should be planned.

Decision makers in animal farming will need advanced methods of investigations to improve predictions of climate variability and projections of climate change, as a basis to develop integrated projects for livestock and, more generally, agriculture adaptability. They will need more efficient capacity to consider climatic data and to elaborate projections for the future. The development of new models that would connect socio-economic aspects of land-use with climatic change is needed. New disciplines, like agroclimatology, will be crucial to furnish readily available inputs for integrating weather variability effects useful for short and long-term livestock adjustment strategies.

Nutrition

The current research in animal nutrition is oriented towards study of requirements of genetically improved animals for increase in safety and quality of animal products and for ensuring economy and profitability of animal industry.

European Union is a net importer of protein feed, and, in this respect, research for import substitution and protein feed production also by utilisation of non-conventional and alternative feeds is of particular importance. This may include valorisation of marginal lands for feed production also in connection with landscape management and the protection of the environment.

Impact of feed processing in animal nutrition has also been in the focus of the current research in this field. The problem remains relevant also for the future research programmes.

The major part of intensive technologies currently applied imposes the need for the use of drugs as feed additives, often to compensate for some inadequacies and shortcomings in animal production methods. The human health aspects, perception of public and economy of production imposed the need for a systematic study of drugs and their alternatives in animal production.

Monitoring and analysis of policy impact

Policy measures approved within the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will influence entrepreneurial decisions of farmers in accordance with market and effects of Single Payment System. A number of farms will have to re-orientat production activities or make new investment in conversion of their production facilities. Monitoring of impact of these measures on farm income will be carried out by inter-country bodies, such as EAAP Beef Task Force and by related national research institutions. Analyses of policy impact prepared by national and inter-country bodies could contribute to the announced Mid-term Review to be undertaken by the European Commission in 2008. However, there is a need for an adequate financial support of research for the development of new tools and methods in policy analysis as a base for policy formulation.