OPTIMIZING THE BIOLOGY OF THE ANIMAL-PLANT INTERFACE FOR IMPROVED SUSTAINABILITY OF FORAGE-BASED ANIMAL ENTERPRISES
Location: Forage-Animal Production Research
Project Number: 6440-32630-001-00
Start Date: Oct 29, 2007
End Date: Oct 14, 2012
The long-term goal of this project is to improve competitiveness and sustainability of forage-based animal enterprises in the transition zone between the subtropical south and temperate north of the eastern half of the United States. Over the next 5 years the Forage-Animal Production Research Unit (FAPRU) and collaborators will focus on the following objectives:
Objective 1: Improve forage-animal health, performance, and forage intake and utilization.
Subobjective 1.A. Develop and validate analytical methodologies for profiling ergot alkaloids produced by toxic endophyte-infected (TE) tall fescue (TF), and resulting metabolites following consumption and metabolism by animals.
Subobjective 1.B. Identify the biotic components and mechanisms of the animal-plant interface impacting grazing animal health and production.
Subobjective 1.C. Enhance nutrient utilization through an improved understanding and manipulation of microorganisms of the rumen.
Objective 2: Improve animal and forage productivity of forage-based systems through optimization of grazing and preconditioning management protocols.
Subobjective 2.A. Evaluate animal performance on novel endophyte-infected TF pastures.
Subobjective 2.B. Develop a preconditioning program to reduce morbidity and mortality in feeder calves that have been backgrounded on TE TF.
Forage systems provide low-cost feed, conserve soil and water resources, and mitigate man’s impact on the environment. However, basic biological information is limited on how plant metabolites affect animal performance and health beyond the production level. Fundamental information concerning how these production level effects are elicited has only recently become a focus. As such, the available information for predicting animal performance in response to plant nutrients under varying environmental, genetic, physiological status, and management conditions is of limited use. Even more problematic is the poor understanding of the effects of plant nutraceuticals and anti-quality factors on nutrient intake, metabolism and assimilation for product, health maintenance, or work by the animal. To increase the sustainability of forage-based enterprises, it is essential that a better understanding be developed of the fundamental biological processes underlying the interactions between the animal, plant, and environment. This project, through the development and utilization of cutting-edge technologies and real world testing, proposes to decipher the complex interactions within the animal-plant interface in order to accomplish the following two objectives: 1) improve forage-animal health, performance, and forage intake and utilization; and 2) improve animal and forage productivity of forage-based systems through optimization of grazing and preconditioning management protocols. These objectives will be focused on the predominant forage (tall fescue) of the transition zone and its alternatives. Accomplishing these objectives will improve sustainability of forage-based enterprises through more reliable predictions on the impacts of management and environment on animal health and performance.