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Healthy Animals

Healthy Animals

NIFA Invests in Research to Maintain Healthy Ag Animals

SD Ag Connection - October 12, 2017

UNDATED - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Wednesday announced support for research to help maintain healthy agricultural animals. The funding is made possible through NIFA's Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program, authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

"It's important to continue to improve animal disease prevention practices and assure animal well-being," said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. "For example, antimicrobial resistance is a growing public health concern for both humans and animals. By pinpointing alternative veterinary treatments, we can both address this issue and keep animals healthy."

The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) is America's flagship competitive grants program for foundational and translational research, education, and extension projects in the food and agricultural sciences. The AFRI Foundational program supports research in several priority areas, including animal health. Funding promotes animal health research projects to combat disease and improve animal health to contribute toward increased safety of food supplies, reduced use of antibiotics, and improved animal well-being. Projects examine animal health and disease from the molecular level to the whole animal to provide producers with improved disease prevention, control or treatment strategies, and tools. Topics include all priority livestock and aquaculture infectious diseases (including those caused by viruses, bacteria, pests, parasites) and non-infectious diseases. Projects also evaluate current management practices and the development of new management practices that reduce animal stress and optimize sustainable production efficiency.

Fiscal year 2016 grants to 39 projects totaling $14.3 million, include South Dakota State University, Brookings, which will receive three grants that total nearly $800,000.

Among these projects, researchers from South Dakota University will develop a vaccine delivery method that works on multiple species, including cows and pigs. This will provide a safe and effective delivery system for disease prevention and control, allowing for rapid development of vaccines for emerging infectious diseases. Scientists at the University of Maryland will test early heat exposure in chickens to understand how it imparts long-term resistance to heat stress, which can cause reduced growth and even death. The information may help increase growth rates, production rates, and offer guidance for poultry farming during heat waves.

A previously funded project at Iowa State University is examining the role of stress before and after cattle with respiratory diseases arrive at a feedlot. The information will help determine whether low-stress acclimation practices may improve animal health and well-being, and performance. Researchers at Utah State University are examining the genetic basis for resistance to toxins produced by fungus. Understanding the needed genes may help to restore protective traits in commercial turkeys using selective breeding.

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