Research Project Seminar - November 2020

2016 Co-funded Call on research for a sustainable animal production sector in Europe

It was a pleasure to introduce the 106 attendees on 17th November 2020 to the latest results of the SusAn Cofunded projects. Many thanks to our great coordinators and the fantastic audience for a fruitful discussion.

The coordinators demonstrated successful transnational research that is performed by the 14 projects which are funded via ERA-NET SusAn’s  co-funded call. From mid-2017 onwards, 14 research consortia with more than 100 researchers from over 20 countries started their work to achieve new insights for the field of sustainable animal production.


We started this seminar with a welcome of the ERA-Net SusAn Coordinator, who handed over to  Jean-Charles Cavitte from DG Agriculture and Rural Development, who presented an Update on F2F strategy and Horizon Europe. Focusses on Cluster 6, Intervention Area 3 Agriculture, Forestry & Rural Areas.

After this very informative presentation, the Coordinators of the Co-funded projects presented their projects.

During this SusAn virtual project Seminar, we divided the 14 projects in three groups.

In the three sessions we showed short videos of each project, that were created in collaboration with the coordinator and ILVO.

In addition to the video, each project coordinator gave a five minutes presentation in which they focused on the results of the project and also answered the question: “Which future research needs do you see at the end of your project that would significantly contribute to more sustainable animal production systems?”

Each session was followed by a 15 min time for the audience to ask questions.

Please find below the download link to the presentations of each project and the recordings of each session. Feel free to share them with your community.

Presentation of Jean-Charles Cavitte

Presentations and Videos of the research projects:


Questions during the different Q&A sessions:

Questions to Jean-Charles Cavitte:

  • What is your, and the COMs, view on the UN Food Summit 2021 track 1 dealing with 'sustainable diets' that seems to be very focused on promoting vegetarian, and even vegan, diets?
  • What is the basis for stating that 60-70% of EU soils are unhealthy?

Questions projects


  • We saw pigs in the video. Which role does or could they play in this system?
  • Was the significantly higher milk somatic cell count also relevant for agric practice?
  • What is the mix% of manure in the bedding system and loss of nitrogen and carbon of the atmosphere
  • Why did the Methan emissions in freewalksystems increased? Due to the bedding?
  • What are the recommendations for the bedding/litter management in FREEWALK systems?
  • Does a drained floor (or with slope) is needed?


  • How long is "shorter" versus "longer" contracts (regarding conservation) for breeders?
  • Has the impact of this project changed the way of working in the breeding companies and farmers from now on?
  • REDIVERSE Will, you be able in the end to find the optimal combination to make a breed that is competitive in ways of production and is more sustainable/resistant to future challenges (eg climate change)?


  • How do farmers deal with the fact that subsidies are more relevant for profit than zootechnical choices?
  • Why has the meat resulting from the cross breeds better fatty acid profile that the one from pure breeds?


  • How did you choose the relevant sustainability indicators considered in your project?
  • How have you transferred the results of the project to your main stakeholders, the farmers?


  • Can you give examples of the one or two top innovative practices that (would) contribute to sustainable honey production?
  • Are your guidelines/ tracing app to be used by all kind of beekeepers? Or is some follow up needed to really enroll this to all beekeepers?
  • BPRACTICES You have elaborated and disseminated very good beekeeping practices. Are you thinking of evaluating the impact of those guidelines?


  • Did you also look at present recommended nutritional requirements for animals? Can you confirm the present recommendations?
  • If you should advise policymakers who wish to address the P surplus, what would you address as low hanging fruits/easy solutions? And what would be the more challenging ones but necessary to tackle/take?
  • You indicated that dietary strategies can be used to reduce P excretion? Does this also affect other excretions such as N (which are also of importance) in a positive or negative way?


  • What does AI contribute to the Project?
  • What will be the costs for a farmer to start using this kind of systems? Need the different systems you presented to have the needed information to change your management for more sustainable pig production?
  • When meat quality was positively affected, how was that explained (more fat in the meat?)?
  • You tested a lot of local feed sources and indicate that certain sources have benefits on several levels, would it be possible by the end of your project to give specific advice to farmers based on these findings (eg to have a niche product?)? Or is more research needed?
  • You mentioned that the creation of a new pig breed is necessary in order to evolve into a sustainable pig production system for the future, in order to adapt to changes and to local feed intake.


  • You tested a lot of local feed sources and indicate that certain sources have benefits on several levels, would it be possible by the end of your project to give specific advice to farmers based on these findings (eg to have a niche product?)? Or is more research needed?
  • You had partners from USA and Australia next to European partners. Did you also include cases from these countries? What are the mean differences in the level of sustainability between these?
  • You mentioned that the creation of a new pig breed is necessary in order to evolve into a sustainable pig production system for the future, in order to adapt to changes and to local feed intake.
  • How do sustainable pig production and consumption should look like to you?


  • In light of an expected circular food system where animals will be increasingly fed with low-opportunity cost biomass (e.g. high fibrous products, waste streams), how does 'Feed Efficiency' as one of the parameters in the economical/ sustainability scoring assessment take this into account? Feed efficiency poses 54% of the Technical Efficiency theme for finishing farms, and 38% for farrow-to-finish farms. In addition, cost of feedstuffs go into two subthemes of the theme Economic Resilience. Several aspects of feed contribute to several subthemes and themes for Environment (e.g. source, nutrients, amounts). 
  • What were the most important indicators to monitor in order to move to a more sustainable system? We are still calculating this aspect. Overall, there will have to be a not too small number of indicators to allow the assessment of different farm types (only one or all production stages, none or all pigs outdoor, all feed produced on farm or all bought, no or several employees etc.).
  • Will this be a working app for farmers to use once the project is finished? And what kind of information do they need to feed the app? The app will be freely available to farmers, advisers and similar stakeholders. The input includes details related to productivity, feed, land use and crops production, medication and farm structures. In addition, direct observations of pig groups have to be entered.


  • What is currently the main factor preventing immunocastration from being implemented in practice?
  • Why is Consumer acceptance still a hurdle?
  • You also organised training schools (mainly for researchers?): how did this go? Would it be interesting to repeat this to farmers and other stakeholders such as policy and the meat sector?
  • The use of immunocastration seems very promising according to your findings. Do consumer acceptance seem to be the only hurdle that still needs to be taken? Or am I mistaken? And what is still needed to achieve consumer acceptance, to your opinion?


  • Which factors can make lamb meat production innovative? What barriers for innovative lamb meat production did you find? The difficulties and barriers to overcome in the small ruminant supply chain depend greatly on the territorial and social context and on the production systems. In many European regions, sheep farming is still extensive, often in marginal areas. In this scenario the barriers for innovative lamb meat production are related to several issues: 1) to use grazing sheep as a natural landscapers and hereby improve biodiversity and heterogeneity; 2) the age of the farmers, who are increasingly older and frequently have limited education level; 3) the technologies, the variety of equipment which has been developed/designed specifically for small ruminants is much more limited compared to the efforts for other livestock species, and it is often expensive.
    However, sheep are frequently managed in marginal/remote areas where technological improvements can make a great difference to improve the quality of life of farmers. The development of new communications systems capable of transmitting localization and data signals even in areas where the 4/5 G network is not developed is required. Better mobile devices to control predator attacks are also needed.
    Furthermore, a general improvement is required for meat presentation in the market, packaging and cuts easily to cook (reaching young consumers), transmitting a safe, healthy, eco-friendly image.
    A specific issue for Turkey has to be described: in Turkey, that has an important potential in terms of small ruminants and has ecological wealth, sheep breeding generally focuses on lamb meat production but innovative approaches has to cope with Breeders Association that is not open to innovations.
  • How could solutions look like in the conflict between species conservation (i.e. wolf populations) and extensive grazing animal husbandry? In various European regions and also in Turkey this is an emerging problem with economic losses, Further, this problem is becoming serious and increasingly urgent for the conflict between farmers, wildlife protection associations, mayors of local communities, operators in the tourism sector is now daily. Rapid and greater economic support for livestock must be ensured to keep possible the development of a rational solution to the problem.
    - The solutions to face the conflict between wildlife conservation and extensive livestock grazing would require a support of all the initiatives aimed at bringing together all the subjects involved in order to better define the problem for all terms.
    - The opinion of local communities is taken into consideration to design regulations in the use/management of the natural resources
    - The sociology and culture behind the problem is acknowledged
  • Your results show that extensive farming is much better for a lot of reasons and more sustainable. How would you see the future of sheep farmers in a sustainable way? Is the capacity of extensive production sufficient to meet the meat demand or do you see the sustainable lamb meat production as a niche market? Extensive sheep farming is increasingly acknowledged as a complex productive activity which provides, not only food, but also many other ecosystem services which have been very poorly quantified although a number of them are beneficial for the rest of the society. The multifunctionality of the sheep systems will be crucial. Whereas nowadays there is controversy about their potential role for climate change due to their methane emissions, the limited number of future herds will shift from being perceived as a problem to be part of the solution. Landscape homogenization is accelerating together with the increased risk of wildfires, pest spread, etc. The resilience of the territories is decreasing and the remaining herds can make a crucial contribution to decrease part of those risks by introducing the necessary heterogeneity in those landscapes.
    The lamb meat production is more likely to be a niche market in Europe, even more due to the increasing support to vegetarian/vegan/flexitarian diets and the increasing rejection to meat consumption. However, unique productions with lots of added values due to the productive system behind them would have a market. Better information to the consumers regarding all those externalities from these productions is needed as new consumers increasingly demand more information about animal welfare, impact on biodiversity, etc. These new consumers care about the product itself but also about how it is produced. In this project we detected that extensive sheep systems would have lots of opportunities to convince consumers that these products are tasty and nutritious, but they are also contributing to a better world.
    In some European areas and in Turkey, however, the demand for lamb still remains high and the diversification of intensive farming systems also remains. In these areas extensive production is not able to cope with the market demand so intensive farms, which are somehow sustainable and are kind to animal welfare, will be needed. Practices in intensive farms are going to be modulated in the long term by consumers perception, so intensive farmers will evolve to increase their overall sustainability.
    The sheep production system in Turkey is carried out mainly in extensive conditions. The sustainability of the extensive production model can be ensured by improving the pasture areas that do not have sufficient quality.
  • How will all this information go to the lamb/sheep farmers? Information reaches the sheep sector through popular science papers, articles and news in media (popular journals, social media) devoted to the farmers and sheep sector. In Turkey Holding meetings for breeders in villages where breeders are located. National workshops and sheep farming conferences for the other stakeholders.
  • Now that the project is complete, do you feeling that there are already opportunities that may provide a future market niche against competitive products from other global markets? We think that local markets still have a niche against global markets. There will be markets for unique products with lots of added values and which are demanded by specific groups of consumers who care about the product but also about the production system behind it.
    Probably this niche is to be located in the supermarkets and on the internet (i.e milk-fed lambs or cheese products (quite popular in some Spanish and Italian regions). This particular product, albeit subjected to the swinging of prices due to global marked constraints, is produced and marketed mainly locally and its consumption lays at the roots of the society.
    Another consideration is that network collect a great interest during the dissemination meetings for lamb meat production but, in some areas like in Germany it is very uncommon to get lamb meat in German supermarkets, therefore, at the expense of interest, the infrastructure is still missing.
    We are aware that the main problem that we will encounter in the future regarding lamb (or whatever the meat) marketing and consumption is the vegan/vegetarian conception.
    The future will be strongly guided by "global" consumer trends on food choices and by how health, ethical, social and environmental priorities (locally or globally) will be considered. In this context the local impact of some animal productions must have a strong emphasis. We are not far from the day when the governments and meat production/consumption will be socially considered as harmful as smoking and/or that the bucolic images of animation/cartoons/Disney about the goodness of nature (wild wolves are an example) are wreaking havoc among children (which are indeed future consumers).
    However, we consider that the holistic approach with other interdisciplinary fields permit to collect many data for this supply chain that hopefully would be shared with decision-making mechanisms and breeders through breeder associations in particular in Turkey.


  • What is your next step? You have found some very interesting new findings and it seems that you are close to a solution. Is more research needed or is this nearly ready to go to the market (by the end of the project)?
  • How did you experience the cooperation with the farmers? Are already some farmers that were not involved in this project working with the frozen semen


  • If selection for resilience requires more energy, isn't that a negative effect (higher feed Costs)?
  • Do you think that there is also a better immunes response to other illnesses? So that these findings might also have a positive effect on the use of antibiotics or other veterinary medicines?
  • How will you disseminate these trade-off models, decision tools as advice for farmers and breeders to contribute to improve health, welfare and reduce the environmental impact of livestock production
  • There are more difficulties in the chicken cases, but for the sheep cases, you have very promising results. Are there global findings that you think can be translated to other production animals such as cattle (eg. veal production) or pigs?


  • Can you name one or two main, significant, new findings of your project (e.g. correlations between indicators)? SusAn
  • You mentioned that you would raise awareness to policymakers in the movie. How did you address this or how are you going to do this?
  • The dashboard gives a nice overview of your project. AnimalFuture really succeed in combining the sources of data and looking at the different pillars of sustainability. Who will you promote the dashboard to and do you have perspectives for further development of the dashboard?
  • The results you gained (like the dashboard) has a lot of potential, but what is up next? What are you going to do to get this known in the field?