Download the SusTradeOff factsheet pdf 

Understanding trade-offs between health and efficiency to improve competitiveness and sustainability of animal production by breeding and management

It is hypothesised that intense selection for traits such as live weight gain and egg/milk yield in production animals has resulted in resources being allocated within the animal to production, at the expense of other physiological processes such as immune function. The SusTradeOff project aims to develop cutting edge technologies to study these trade-offs in two production systems (sheep and poultry): SusTradeOff aims to understand how different dietary protein sources are allocated by animals of different genetic backgrounds between production and immune function and how this allocation is affected by stage of production, disease or vaccination. To achieve these aims, biological materials and proteomics technologies will first be developed to study these trade-offs at the individual animal level, which will facilitate the identification of protein sources and/or targeted protein supplementation to enhance or maintain immune function in the face of high production demands. Population studies in experimental and commercial lines will investigate trade-offs between resilience, immunocompetence and production, providing additional genotypes and phenotypes to select in balanced breeding programs. Data integration and modelling will provide prediction models for trade-offs and decision making tools. The consortium gathers scientists, technical institutes, breeding companies and association of organic farmers from France, UK, the Netherlands and Denmark.

  • Assessment of D2O protocols for sheep & chicken : Deuterium excretion kinetics were as expected in housed sheep and poultry. Interestingly, deuterium turnover was higher in the grazed sheep, compared to housed sheep. The most likely explanation for this is the reduced dry matter content of autumn grazed grass, resulting in increased excretion of deuterium. Fractional synthesis rates have now been calculated for CD4 T-cells, PBMC, albumin, IgG and myofibrillar protein in ewes. Rates were not significantly different between grazed and housed sheep, however curiously, the turnover of IgG was much higher than expected compared to human data and was comparable to albumin at 8-11% per day.
  • LC-MS proteomics methods established, and demonstrate successful calculation of protein specific synthesis rate from D2O labelled muscle and plasma from sheep.  SWATH-MS platforms established for sheep samples, supporting quantification of selected protein marker panels, including parallel marker detection for muscle growth and immune response.
  •  Sheep resource allocation model experiment : During growth, strong resistance to parasite infestation was associated with slower fat deposition in the resistant line compared to susceptible line. Around lambing, neither the line nor the diet protein content had an effect on parasite resistance but lines differences reappeared afterwards. Results will be integrated through the modelling of nutrient allocation.
  •  Resilience indicators based on body weight variation and its relation with natural antibody levels in layers: Less resilient chickens show more fluctuations in production than more resilient chickens. A relation between resilience and immunity was found, suggesting that the resilience indicators are partly indicative for disease resistance. In addition, the relatively high heritabilities of resilience indicators based on body weight offer opportunities for genetic improvement of resilience.

Messages to:

A) Actors from private sector (entrepreneurs, traders, investors etc.)

  • Our project can help understanding trade-offs observed by breeders
  • Our project can provide prediction models for trade-offs and decision making tools that can be validated at the production level with breeding industry partners under commercial conditions using industry standard operational scenarios.
  • Our project can contribute to develop integrated animal health and production management strategies to improve competitiveness and sustainability of animal production, especially by delivering more efficient use of proteins

B) Civil society and practitioners organizations

  • Our project can contribute to Improve health of farm animals, reduce the environmental impact and welfare problems of intensive livestock production
  • Our project can contribute to improve production to feed the world

C) Policy makers

  • Policies in favor of innovative partnerships between academic and nonacademic actors must be further supported to enable research and development of innovative solutions using cutting edge technologies for a better use of resources by a more competitive and more resilient livestock sector.

Knowledge products:

  • T.V.L. Berghof, H. Bovenhuis, J.A.J. Arts, F. Karangali, J.J. Van Der Poel, H.K. Parmentier and H.A. Mulder. 2018. Body weight variation as indicator for resilience in chickens. 69. Annual meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science EAAP 2018, Dubrovnik, 27-31 August 2018. p577. (Tom Berghof winner of the young scientist award for Best Oral presentation - EAAP Genetics commission)
  • T.V.L. Berghof, M. Poppe, H.A. Mulder. 2019. Opportunities to Improve Resilience in Breeding Programs. Frontiers in Genetics, special issue ‘Animal Genetics and Diseases: Advances in Farming and Livestock Systems’ 9: 692
  • T.V.L. Berghof, H. Bovenhuis, J.A.J. Arts, F. Karangali, J.J. Van Der Poel, H.K. Parmentier and H.A. Mulder. 2019. Investigation of resilience indicators based on body weight variation in chickens. Animal Genetics and Diseases conferences, Hinxton, UK, 8-10 May 2019.
  • T.V.L. Berghof, K. Peeters, J. Visscher and H.A. Mulder. 2019. Genetics of the relationships between immunocompetence, resilience, and production in chickens. 70. Annual meeting of the European Federation of Animal Science EAAP 2019, Ghent, 26-30 August 2019.

Knowledge networks:

At Wageningen University, the SusTradeOff research is closely linked with resilience research in the public-private partnership Breed4Food, which is a consortium of four breeding companies and Wageningen University and Research.

Coordinated by: Dr. Marie-Hélène Pinard-van der Laan - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique – Génétique Animale et Biologie Intégrative (FRANCE) - Contact

Funded by: ANR, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique - génétique Physiologie et Systèmes d'Elevage, Institut Technique Aviculture, DAFA, Okologisk Landsforening, NWO, Hendrix Genetics, Cobb-vantress, Moredun Research institute and DEFRA as part of the ERA-NET Cofund SusAn through a virtual common pot model including EU Top-Up funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no 696231)

9 research partners:

  • DENMARK: Aarhus University and Okologisk landsforening
  • FRANCE: Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique – Génétique Physiologie et Systèmes d’Elevage, Institut de l’Elevage and Institut Technique Aviculture
  • THE NETHERLANDS: Wageningen University and Research, Hendrix Genetics and Cobb-vantress
  • UNITED KINGDOM: University of Edinburgh and Moredun Research Institute

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