Nutrition - Agri-EPI Centre - Engineering Precision Innovation

Nutrition

The optimal feeding of our farmed animals is central to their, health, growth and life-long productivity.

Agri-EPI explores and delivers precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in UK agriculture across soil, crops and livestock. Helping to ensure that our farmed animals are getting the best nutrition and our farmers, feed suppliers and researchers the most up to date information and resources.

New animal health report highlights lessons learned Covid-19 pandemic

Lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic highlighted in new animal health report

The animal health industry needs to be better prepared for disruptions like Covid-19 and have resiliency plans in place to handle supply and demand.

This is the ‘lessons learned’ message from Agri-EPI’s Chief Executive Dave Ross in a new report exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the global animal health industry.

Report Animal Health Industry Response COVID19 - Kisaco ResearchThe production of Animal Health Industry Response to COVID-19 and the Rise of Telemedicine was co-ordinated by Kisaco Research. It seeks to assess the full impact of the outbreak across the sector, and provide insight in the form of industry surveys, data collection, discussions, and interviews with market leaders and emerging companies.

Dave was one of 55 contributing experts from around the world. He comments in the report on labour shortages and the skills gap from COVID and Brexit, the issue of food protectionism and overall lessons learned from the advent of the pandemic.

On the latter point, Dave says that the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the food supply chain when a disruptor comes into the market and highlighted the lack of preparations companies and suppliers had to pivot to other markets.

He cites in the report the example of the UK dairy sector, where 35 million litres of milk were being produced a day, pre-Covid. A significant proportion of the approximately 10 million litres destined for the service sector ended up being wasted when demand stopped abruptly due to lockdown. This led to a subsequent price collapse, with the current system ‘not being able to turn off the tap’ on supply.

Dave also highlights how the crisis has brought a renewed focus on the need to reduce food waste, with 9.5 million tons of food being lost each year in the UK.

The report coincides with Animal Health Investment USA, a large scale event on 12 and 13 October connecting businesses and investors around opportunities in the animal health industry. Dave sits on the event’s Global Advisory Board.

To get hold of the report, please get in touch with Kisaco Research.

Solutions to nutritional challenges of dairy calf rearing

Optimising lifelong productivity

Calf Research has shown that the way a dairy calf is cared for in its early life stages can have major and long-lasting effects on the lifetime trajectory of that animal. This has significance not just at the farm level, but throughout the industry, where issues such as animal welfare, animal diseases and food safety can have substantial consequences.

Improvements in calf rearing will play a crucial role in the future sustainability of British dairy produce. Many problems exist in current calf rearing systems which threaten to restrict the sustainable development of dairy cattle in the UK. When managed incorrectly, dairy calves are susceptible to a range of health and welfare issues associated with inappropriate nutrition and weaning that can have long term impacts on the lifetime productivity of that animal in the dairy herd.

Calf Research & Innovation Facility

Agri-EPI has made substantial investments in the Calf Research & Innovation Facility, a joint venture with SRUC to facilitate the measurement and management of key elements in calf rearing to optimise lifelong productivity. Colostrum management is the foundation of successful calf rearing. Colostrum contains high concentrations of protective antibodies to support a calf’s immunity, as well as a range of other constituents which are crucial to calf growth and development. Factors such as quality and amount of colostrum, as well as the timescale over which colostrum is delivered can all impact the future health status of an animal.

Getting right the energy and nutrient requirements of each individual animal goes far beyond colostrum. Dry feed, forages and water, as well as supplements and milk replacers also make up significant areas of the calf’s diet and all impact on animal health. Recent research findings suggest that the gut microbiome of the dairy calf is the key opportunity to improve early life gut health.

In partnership with you

The overarching aim of Agri-EPI’s dairy work is to develop and trial precision technology and techniques which support sustainable and productive UK milk production. Under an imminent Agricultural Policy reform, British dairy farmers will be required to constantly adapt, innovate and invest to ensure security for the future of the industry.

Agri-EPI’s Calf Research Facility, at SRUC’s Crichton Royal Dairy Farm in Dumfries, allows the daily monitoring of a calf’s consumption of milk, water, forage and concentrates, and its weight gain. Weigh cells in individual feeders record each calf’s intake every time they eat or drink. The data gathered by the units within the facility can be combined with data from ‘animal-mounted’ sensors, such as anklets recording an animal’s activity levels. The result is a comprehensive picture of an animal’s health and development, and how changes to intakes may influence these factors longer-term. The facility also creates opportunities for longer-term research into how different nutritional strategies may influence an animal’s lifetime health and productivity. For example, by considering how different milk formulations may impact on an animal’s growth and productivity.

Agri-EPI and SRUC are keen to partner with individual farmers, calf feed manufacturers, dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers and the wider supply chain to undertake research and trials to develop the latest technologies and techniques in calf rearing.

Example areas for research and trialling at the facility include:

  • Feed trials
  • Microbiome
  • Growth performance
  • Nutrient digestibility
  • Blood biochemical indices
  • Rumen development

For more information about our Calf Research Facility at SRUC Crichton Royal or to discuss a project/trial idea, please contact Kasi McReddie, Agr-EPI Centre Business Development Manager – Livestock.

Improving farmers’ livelihoods through better rice varieties

Agri-EPI Centre is working together with LGC, international leader in the extended life sciences sector, Bangor University and partners in Nepal (Anamolbiu and NARC) and Pakistan (NIBGE) on the improvement of food security and livelihoods for international development focused on rice productivity.

Rice varieties

For about half a billion people in Asia, most of them poor, rice provides over 50% of the caloric supply so the size and stability of the rice harvest is crucial. The simplest way to increase yields is by the breeding of new rice varieties with greater resistance to diseases and pests and improved tolerance to stresses.

The project is developing LGC’s proprietary molecular technologies (KASP) to improve the livelihoods of farmers in the developing world through better rice varieties. As a single improved rice variety can increase harvest value by millions of pounds a year, this has the potential to have a great impact in Asian countries where rice is the basis of their diet. The project started in August last year and is due to finish January 2021.

For more information, please contact our Project Team at enquiries@agri-epicentre.com or visit the UKRI website.

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.