£10m EU grant to look at animal production

The future of modern animal production will be subject of an in-depth review by experts from Newcastle University.

Newcastle University
Newcastle University

The future of modern animal production will be the subject of an in-depth review by experts from Newcastle University.

Their Prohealth consortium, made up of representatives from 11 countries, has been granted more than £10m – the largest EU grant awarded in this field – to identify solutions to reconcile modern animal production systems and sustainability.

Launched yesterday at a meeting at Newcastle University, the project focuses on pig and poultry production, exploring ways to increase production quality, limiting environmental impact and preserving profitability for the farmers, and those who live from animal food production.

Over the next 40 years, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations projects that the global requirement for animal-derived protein will increase by 50%. Sustainability will be essential to meet this global demand for safe and quality food, at an affordable price, while making the best possible use of natural resources.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, 30% of food production is already lost due to infectious and non-infectious diseases occurring at farm level, both European and globally.

Prohealth will try to address this loss, which threatens to limit the response to demand for animal protein, as well as compromising animal health and welfare.

Professor Steve Homans, pro-vice chancellor of Newcastle University, said: “The overarching aim of the five-year project is to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of intensive pig and poultry farming in Europe. The key point of difference is a holistic approach focusing on understanding the multifactorial dimension of animal diseases linked to the intensification of production, and using this knowledge to develop, evaluate, and disseminate effective control and improvement strategies for reducing impact throughout the EU.”

Prohealth will address production diseases of pigs and poultry (broiler and egg-laying chickens and turkeys) raised in a wide range of intensive systems across the EU. The complexity, causality, extent and risks of different disease states and their interactions will be examined under field conditions.

Epidemiological and experimental approaches will be applied to investigate links between genetic predisposition (animal) and environmental stressors (housing, nutrition, management), in addition to the dynamic influence of environment on disease. Alejandro Bernal, of animal health company Zoetis Inc, a partner in the Prohealth consortium, added: “All parties can benefit from the combined expertise and resource of what is probably the biggest poultry and pigs research network in the world at the moment.”

Prohealth aims to deliver strategies which will ultimately improve modern pig and poultry farming systems across the EU, raising the bar for animal production worldwide.

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