Our Grand Challenges
Researchers in Animal & Dairy Science are working toward solutions for each of the Grand Challenges.
Animal Health and Welfare
Animal welfare is a complex and multi-faceted issue that reflects the integration of traditional animal science disciplines and their interactions with the environment. It is critical to the social license of animal production and the economic viability of livestock farming, and it is the lens through which both scientists and consumers will view new tools and strategies in nutrition, physiology, genetics, and management. Researchers will:
- Identify challenges and pursue innovative solutions that utilize our knowledge of physiology, nutrition, genetics, management, engineering, and related fields to improve animal health, welfare, and performance.
- Conduct research in a socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable manner.
Traditional processes for development, testing, and approval of new pharmaceuticals are extremely costly, and success rates in human subjects are low. Livestock are effective models for many human diseases and disorders, especially when coupled with gene editing and other biotechnologies. Furthermore, various co-products of meat, milk, or egg production, which were historically discarded as waste, may have bioactive properties that can provide novel therapies or nutritional supplements to improve human or animal health. Researchers will:
- Develop novel uses and identify new ways to harvest tissues for co-products derived from meat, milk, and egg processing that can be used for biomedical purposes to advance animal and human health.
- Use laboratory and farm animal species to delineate the underlying mechanisms of human diseases and health disorders.
- Explore opportunities to use gene-edited livestock for xenotransplantation of organs into human patients.
A steady supply of safe and nutritious animal-based proteins is the foundation of global food security. It is our responsibility to protect consumers from harmful agents that can endanger public health, from the farm to the table. In addition, we must deliver food products that meet the nutritional requirements of the generic consumer, reduce the prevalence of obesity-related health disorders, and accommodate the specific dietary needs of individuals with unique nutritional demands or underlying medical conditions. Researchers will:
- Generate novel technologies for the detection and control of foodborne pathogens in the animal food supply, as well as interventions and strategies that meet the economic and regulatory requirements of the food industry.
- Develop laboratory methods and data analytics that enable our understanding of the impact of microbial ecology and the animal microbiome on food safety and nutritional quality at each stage of the food supply chain.
Land and Water Stewardship
The demand for animal-based proteins continues to grow as our population expands, but livestock farming must compete with commercial, residential, and recreational users of land and water resources. Animal agriculture contributes to greenhouse gas emissions but also suffers from the effects of global warming and climate variability. Fluency in integrating nutritional management and feed production at the system level will become as important as knowledge of basic nutrition and physiology concepts at the animal level. Researchers will:
- Study nutrition and physiology—and their interactions with genetic predisposition—to understand and optimize nutrient utilization.
- Develop tools and strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as identify strategies to predict and mitigate the effects of weather events and climate change.
- Develop management systems that improve the efficiency of animal production while reducing the sector’s carbon footprint to sustainably meet growing global demand for animal-based products
- Address the impacts of biofuels and other industrial demands on the quality and availability of feeds and forage crops, while developing strategies to promote the efficient and responsible use of our water resources.
Precision Livestock Farming
Technologies for monitoring the behavior, physiology, and health of domestic animals, as well as machine learning algorithms for interpreting big data, have progressed at an astonishing rate. These tools provide unprecedented opportunities to advance animal welfare, enhance labor efficiency, improve economic returns, and minimize the environmental impact of livestock operations, if they are implemented in a strategic and cost-effective manner. Researchers will:
- Advance novel sensor technologies for applications in nutrition, reproduction, genetic improvement, disease detection, and overall management of various species of livestock and companion animals.
- Develop and apply sophisticated statistical and computational algorithms to handle and mine high-dimensional data generated by such technologies.
Agricultural and Applied Economics
Biological Systems Engineering