Fitter Livestock Farming Project Group: Towards a Sustainable European Livestock Farming!

Fitter Livestock Farming Project Group organises two workshops, providing a discussion forum for their collaborative Policy Paper. 

Two workshops focused on sustainable and competitive livestock production in Europe should be brought to your attention. The first one, on 28th August 2019, is part of the programme of the European Federation for Animal Science (EAAP) Annual Meeting in Ghent (Belgium), at the International Convention Centre. The second one, entitled “What R&I can deliver to support climate mitigation and adaptation in livestock farming” is organised together with the Animal Task Force (ATF) and takes place on 6th November, in Brussels (Belgium).

Both workshops will bring together animal scientists with livestock professionals and advisors, as well as researchers, non-profit & societal organizations and industry representatives, to discuss sustainable use of resources, preservation of biodiversity, livestock gene bank collections and improvement of soil quality in the livestock sector.

The Fitter Livestock Farming Project Group (PG) is a cluster of six research projects (FEED-A-GENE, GenTORE, GplusE, IMAGE, SAPHIR & SmartCow) funded by the European Commission and coordinated under the Common Dissemination Booster, aiming to bring Innovation to food safety and sustainable agriculture.

Towards environmentally friendly livestock farming

The livestock sector contributes substantially to the European economy and to the vitality of many   European countries. The livestock sector also has great potential to contribute to mitigating climate impact. In the EU, whilst livestock are currently responsible for 7% of total emissions, there is a view that using grass to feed ruminants like cattle and sheep offers huge mitigation potential as grass is a large reservoir able to hold excess CO2. New technologies and relevant incentives like being able to select the most efficient animals will enable the livestock sector to use best practices to enable it to come close to CO2 neutrality as well as reducing methane and NO2 emissions. If these measures are taken up alongside reducing deforestation and better use of soils for agricultural production the livestock sector in Europe will be starting to significantly contribute to mitigation of climate impacts.

Another relevant topic is the gene banks. The animal gene banks are an investment for countries and research institutions as well as an asset for the livestock sector. A better knowledge of these collections is key to stimulate to their use. However, information about gene bank collections is often hard to find for a breeder, because these gene bank collections are scarce.

The Fitter Livestock Farming PG focuses on these topics and is working on solutions and proposals to turn the EU sustainable livestock farming into reality.

Mitigation actions for a Sustainable Fitter Livestock Farming

The Fitter Livestock Farming PG is organising a half-day Special Session at EAAP, entitled “Burning issues in biodiversity 2: fitter livestock farms from better gene banks?”, on 28th August 2019, in Ghent, to foster the refined characterization of gene bank samples for the livestock sector. The session takes place from 14:00-17:00 in the Baeckeland 1 room of the International Convention Centre (ICC).

The session brings together various stakeholders from different backgrounds focused on increasing sustainability levels of livestock farming, mainly through animal gene banks. Five projects that are part of Fitter Livestock Farming PG will present their results and approaches that to better document gene bank collections:

  • FEED-A-GENE is identifying criteria and populations related to a better feed efficiency in pigs and chickens fed alternative feedstuffs.
  • GenTORE will illustrate impacts of geoclimatic classes and farm type (organic or conventional) on economic resilience of dairy farms.
  • GplusE developed mid-infrared milk analysis based technologies that could be used in different ways to add value to gene banks.
  • IMAGE is using time series of gene bank collections to identify selection signatures in cattle breed. It is also producing molecular data with the aim to correlate them with adaptation or specific phenotypic traits of breeds being present in gene banks.
  • The SmartCow is devoted to phenotyping: animals with original phenotypes would be a target for gene bank collection, and resources from gene banks could be used to produce animals from past genotypes to be compared with current ones.

The outcomes of this session will be bundled with outcomes of the ATF EAAP session entitled ““Towards a Climate Smart European Livestock Farming”, and used as input for the half-day session organised by both groups in November 2019.

Towards a competitive livestock production – how to prepare the future?

On 6th November, the afternoon session “What R&I can deliver to support climate mitigation and adaptation in livestock farming”, organised by the ATF and the Fitter Livestock Farming PG will take place, in Brussels. The session will present products, tools, devices and systems, developed by the EU-funded projects from the Fitter Livestock Farming PG, that are tackling challenges in animal production through innovation to improve food security and livestock farming sustainability. More information will be available soon.

A Policy Paper on Sustainable European livestock farming systems

The above mentioned workshops will provide inputs for a Policy Paper to be defined by the Fitter Livestock Farming PG. The paper, to be provided by end of the year, will propose priorities for research and innovation for Horizon Europe funding programme, from the European Commission.