A new wave of projects is underway across the CIEL network of industry and research partners that will address identified livestock and food chain sector challenges and impact all the main livestock sectors.
Collectively the projects target the priority areas for the livestock industry, from resource efficiency & precision nutrition, AMR and animal health & welfare management, to new innovations for climate smart food systems.
Involved are leading names from food processing, retail and animal health & welfare and SME innovators working across the supply chain. Each are partnering with animal scientists drawn from the nationwide network of CIEL research partners.
Supporting the Beef, Sheep and Dairy sectors
CIEL is supporting the development of a new generation of red clovers for livestock farmers. Red clover is a source of bioavailable high-quality protein for ruminant livestock but doesn’t have the persistency of white clover.
This project, a collaboration between grass seed specialists Germinal and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, aims to develop new strains of red clover capable of mirroring white clover’s longevity.
Buitelaar and the University of Nottingham are collaborating on a project aiming to determine the relative risk of dairy-sourced beef calves as they enter the rearing unit.
By developing computer algorithms, Buitelaar are hoping to gain a better understanding of the potential risks for calves entering the rearing farm. This improved understanding will lead to selective management of calves with improved nutrition programmes and specific treatment policies. There will also be the opportunity to feed this data back to the farms that manage the calves from birth allowing the farmer to better understand what management practises can help to reduce the risk to calves when they enter the rearing farm.
Research has shown that ag-tech sensors may provide powerful insights on behavioural changes that indicate disease in calves, thereby enabling the farmer to make informed decisions on when to treat a diseased calf. This project aims to develop one of the first commercially available automated calf monitoring systems for the farming industry.
IceRobotics Ltd and AFBI Hillsborough will be exploiting machine learning methods on information derived from sensors. Data collected by AFBI will provide a unique foundation for this development, implemented by IceRobotics Ltd. The project addresses several key industry challenges: Early detection of health issues may enable a reduction in the use of antibiotics and also reduce mortality rate, leading to improved animal health & welfare; at a broader level, healthy animals are more productive and so more efficient, which helps improving farming sustainability and lessening the carbon footprint of the industry.
Drawing on the genetic analysis expertise of SRUC, AHDB are developing a new approach to UK sheep genetic evaluations for maternal breeds of sheep to fast track genetic gain through the development of new breeding values, indexes and producer friendly support tools.
Updating the UK’s ability to produce accurate breeding values (indicators of genetic merit) for maternal breeds of sheep is clearly important. The new approach will enable rapid turnaround of data so decisions can be made more quickly, and the analysis of new traits that will enhance not just the efficiency of productivity, but also animal welfare and environmental impact.
Veterinary diagnostics company Biotangents are working with researchers at the University of Edinburgh Roslin Institute to develop a novel diagnostic for mastitis.
Mastitis is the costliest infectious disease affecting the dairy industry. Researchers from the Roslin Institute will produce gene expression data for mastitis-causing pathogens and identify the most prevalent global causes of mastitis. This data will then be used by Biotangents to develop a new diagnostic test for mastitis on the global market.
AB Vista is an animal nutrition technology company and part of AB Agri - the agricultural division of Associated British Foods (ABF plc). In this project they team up with the University of Nottingham in a bid to advance the technological development of novel alternatives to antimicrobials.
Success will lead to improved health & welfare of farmed livestock while lowering the carbon footprint of agriculture by naturally enhancing the gastrointestinal tract microbiome, improving innate immunity of neonatal animals, and increasing their subsequent feed efficiency.
ABP have teamed up with Harper Adams University to establish an Information and Decision Support (DS) network to ensure beef farmers have accurate information available for critical decision making.
Real-time animal & farm data will be captured to provide a foundation group of farmers with individual farm data. The DS framework will have the ability to compare liveweight gain, nutrition analysis, soil health, grassland management, precision grazing and overall efficiency. Performance reports will be accessible via the Livestock Portal and fed back to farmers in real time. Continuous monitoring and KPIs for efficiency and productivity will inform both business and livestock decisions in real time. The key outcome of this project is to establish a Beef Club where farmers can access expert advice using accurate and up-to-date data.
Mole Valley Farmers and the University of Nottingham have teamed up on a project aiming to lower the carbon footprint of UK agriculture.
Over the past 20 years UK livestock production has seen significant yield increases, with cattle requiring more protein rich feeds. These are often imported, thus increasing the carbon footprint of UK agriculture and potentially contributing to global deforestation.
This project aims to lower protein use in livestock production by developing precision protein diets suitable for the UK livestock industry. The project will assess how greater precision in the type of protein offered to growing dairy heifers can be applied to reduce the protein concentration of heifer diets while maintaining their rate of development and subsequent milk yield.
Livestock health & welfare specialists RAFT Solutions Ltd (RAFT) are working with researchers at Queen’s University Belfast to develop an effective, antibiotic-free antimicrobial formulation containing a combination of novel AMPs to treat bovine mastitis.
Bovine mastitis is an inflammatory disease of the udder and teat canal, caused by microbial infections that compromise milk production, quality and safety. Mastitis is one of the main challenges for the dairy sector globally, due to its high prevalence and incidence, impact on greenhouse gas production per kg milk due to increased waste, economic impact and difficulties in diagnosis and treatment. Current therapies, based on antibiotics, can also be inefficient due to the emergence of antibiotic resistant strains.
The 2014 AMR review report by Lord O’Neil suggested that antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) could contribute to achieving possible solutions for treating multi-drug resistant bacteria due to their fast and often non-specific puncturing action on the bacterial cell membrane, which also means that resistance will be much slower to develop. AMPs are attractive candidates for intramammary mastitis therapy given the low level of peptidases in the udder and teat canal alongside high degradability which means that they will be functionally effective but short-lived regarding food residues.
Supporting the Pig and Poultry sectors
As the poultry industry strives towards net-zero carbon emissions, Moy Park is leading a project in collaboration with Queen’s University Belfast to explore the potential of utilising poultry litter as a resource and not as a waste stream. This research could have significant environmental and economic benefits.
Poultry systems produce manure as a by-product of production, this resource has potential in several waste valorisation streams. Exploring each of these avenues could have far reaching impact for the poultry sector. Potential valorisation streams that will be examined include compostable packaging and construction products, with a focus on recycling these products, for example, as insulation for broiler houses (reducing heating or cooling operations) or structural elements within the poultry houses (reducing the use of plastics or other petroleum-based products).
The variety of options requires a whole production modelling approach that allows for practical considerations like locality, feasibility and environmental impacts to be examined. This also allows for optimal implementation of novel products to deliver success. A key aspect of success is aligning the high quality products that Moy Park produces, with ever higher environmental credentials.
The new knowledge gathered will enable evidence-based decisions for the use of poultry litter in future policy and regulations. This project will inform discussions on design, technologies and policies that will assist and enable a transition to net-zero poultry production.
Global animal health company Zoetis are partnering with researchers at Queen's University Belfast and the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to develop an automated system for early detection and prevention of tail biting outbreaks.
Tail biting in pigs is a major welfare and economic problem for indoor pig producers worldwide. It is painful and stressful for the animal that is being bitten, and the wound is a potential source of infection. A way of preventing it is to look for early warning signs of the behaviour and apply intervention before tail biting occurs. Physical observation of such signs is not possible in modern pig units, due to the size and intensity of the input required to achieve this. Using automated machine vision to quantifying changes in behaviour would be a way of achieving precisely this.
Analysis of carbon footprint data in some agricultural sectors has revealed a direct link between lower emissions and increased production efficiency, improved farm and environmental sustainability and improved animal welfare. Eggbase Ltd has created an egg-production specific carbon footprinting tool to help their clients measure, understand, report and reduce their carbon footprint, using data that they already enter into Eggbase cloud software for daily production recording, data visualisation and legislative compliance. Direct, accessible visibility of their carbon footprint provides the producer with an opportunity to identify ways of reducing the environmental impact of their business.
Eggbase Ltd is working with SRUC to demonstrate the value and strength of this Eggbase time-efficient carbon footprint tool by applying it to a large database of historical egg production data generated from historical research trials. Commercial units only allow analysis on a whole-farm basis whereas using data from research trials will allow analyses across identical units. This unique setup will permit sight of the natural variation in the carbon footprint and the potential production efficiency range for each trial dataset.
Moy Park, in partnership with researchers at Newcastle University are seeking to develop a mobile application that leverages thermal imaging technology to assess bird welfare, in real time, across its farming base.
Many of the current indicators solely focus on measuring negative welfare experiences. These cannot capture the positive welfare experiences the birds encounter every day. This project will be a milestone in how the welfare of poultry is assessed, providing a less subjective metric over more traditional welfare indicators whilst also enabling the quick and easy measurement of welfare, furthering our understanding of what delivers high welfare.
Working in partnership with the Institute of Aquaculture at the University of Stirling, Waitrose & Partners will examine a circular economy solution for the marine ingredients used in farmed Atlantic salmon feed.
The project will quantify the environmental impacts and benefits of a diet for farmed salmon composed of fish trimmings/ by-products from wild fisheries by-products to replace conventional diets which include high levels of forage fish from directed fisheries. Results will take into account the relative performance of the diets on-farm and measure carbon, water, and land footprints, amongst others.