European project LowInputBreeds begins:

Improving animal health and product quality in European organic and ‘low input’ livestock production systems
A large-scale project which aims to improve animal health and product quality in European organic and ‘low input’ livestock production systems has just begun.

The LowInputBreeds project unites 21 partners from Europe and further afield and will develop integrated breeding and management strategies to tackle the issue of improved animal health and food quality. It will run until 2014 and is co-funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The Animal Breeding and Genetics Group in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Göttingen coordinates the dairy cattle subproject within LowInputBreeds.

The project has four main objectives:
• To develop and evaluate innovative breeding concepts to deliver genotypes with ‘robustness’ and quality traits required under ‘low input’ conditions.
• To integrate the use of improved genotypes with innovative management approaches. These will focus on issues where breeding or management innovations alone are unlikely to provide satisfactory solutions e.g. mastitis and parasite control.
• To identify the potential economic, environmental and ethical impacts of the project’s results. The project needs to ensure that the results are in line with society’s different needs, priorities and consumer expectations.
• To establish an efficient training and dissemination programme aimed at rapid application of project results in organic and ‘low input’ livestock farming.
LowInputBreeds focuses on six major livestock production systems: dairy and beef cattle, dairy and meat sheep, pigs and laying hens.

The cattle worpackage is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Henner Simianer, head of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Group at the University of Göttingen. Here, two subprojects are lead by researchers from Göttingen:
• In subproject 1.1, co-ordinated by Prof. Simianer, it will be assessed, to what extent novel breeding approaches such as genomic selection can be used to improve health and qiuality traits which are especially relevant in low input production systems.
• In subproject 1.3, co-ordinated by Dr. Sven König, a system will be developed to assess efficiency of dairy cattle production systems both with respect to economic and ecological criteria. This will e.g. address the emission of greenhouse gases per kg of product (meat or milk). This will help to compare production systems on all relevant scales.