Livestock Innovation
Brought to you by LRIC
July 16, 2020
Innovation Insights
Mike McMorris, LRIC CEO

The Perfect Beast

About two years ago, in the context of initiating a national genetic improvement program, I asked the members of the beef value chain round table what they would like to see changed in cattle. 

The packer representative had an interesting answer: “Make them identical so that I can use robots to process them.”  This was related to the ongoing labour issues that processors were and still are facing. 

When you look beyond beef cattle, having identical animals entering a processing plant is actually more the norm than the exception. There is very little variation in market hogs and chickens. The push for more homogeneous market cattle will be stronger as a result of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on processing plants. 
 
Defining and producing the perfect beast is much harder for the beef and sheep sectors than for hogs and chickens because they are raised in very different environments. The beef and sheep sectors also have significantly more breeds and genetic variation within and across those breeds. This greater genetic variation is in part a logical means of producing animals in different environments but also comes from a lack of market feedback that would drive genetic selection, and the passion held by breeders for their particular breed.
 
The move toward more automation in processing plants, if tied to economic signals back down the supply chain, will force some sectors to address the issue of reducing variation in market animals. Defining the perfect beast will take many years and in that time industry will also need to address: easy data collection; basic use of data by the collector; data ownership and sharing; identifying how data will be used to benefit the entire supply chain; and the incorporation of artificial intelligence where it can add value. 

I have seen too many attempts at this discussion where these topics are not bridged together and so nothing comes from it.
Open calls for Letters of Intent
The following calls for research Letters of Intent are currently open or opening soon:

Ontario Pork call for proposals, opens July 27, 2020
LRIC in the news
LRIC regularly submits news articles to Ontario and Canadian livestock and poultry publications. Here is the latest:

Sector-specific
Poultry: Exploring ways to reduce salmonella in poultry
Researchers from the US government and two US universities have teamed up to find alternatives to antibiotics to reduce salmonella in poultry. The focus is on prevention of Salmonella Heidelberg, one of the main strains causing food-borne illness - and predicting risk in antibiotic-free production.

Swine: New disinfectant shows promising results
Studies looking at the efficacy of a new disinfectant, Ag Forte, have found it to boost sanitation and biosecurity of pig barns and livestock trucks. In particular, it was found effective against three major swine pathogens: Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, Seneca Virus A and Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.

Beef: Rumen development critical for young calf health
Keeping calves on milk longer helps ensure the rumen is developed enough to absorb important nutrients. Supplements and management can help boost rumen development.

Dairy: New rapid Actiphage test for Johne's Disease and Bovine TB progressing
New funding is helping a Canadian biotech company validate its diagnostic test for hard to detect mycobacterial diseases like Johne's. PBD Biotech's Actiphage takes just a few hours to detect viable mycobacteria, unlike current tests that can take up to three months for results.

Small ruminants: Focus PPRV control in sheep and goats on herd management, not age
A recently completed research study has shown that the risk of transmitting the Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV), a highly infectious and often fatal disease of sheep and goats, depends more on herd management than on an animal's age. The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Animal Health Organization have launched a global campaign to eradicate this disease by 2030.

Aquaculture: Evaluating a new salmon smolt strategy
The federal government has announced funding for research at the University of British Columbia to look at how to improve the survivability of young farmed salmon. The goal is to grow larger, more robust Altlantic Salmon smolts before they're transferred into farm environments.

Cross-sector
Environment & climate change: LRIC analysis of the Farm to Fork report from the European Union
The recently released EU Farm to Fork Policy document is likely to impact the Ontario livestock in years to come. This impact may be felt directly, through requirements to export, but also more broadly as an influence on consumer expectations here. LRIC has compiled notes of interest to Ontario livestock.

Gene editing: Breeding disease resistance in chickens and pigs
Genome editing can be a reliable way to help breed livestock with disease resistance. Various projects are underway to breed pigs and poultry with resistance to diseases like Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea and Avian Influenza.

On the horizon
Alternative proteins: plant-based salmon alternative in development
Swedish start-up Hooked is working to bring plant-based tuna and salmon alternatives to market. Both products are shredded, based on soy protein isolates and intended for use in pasta dishes, on pizzas and in wraps, salads and bowls.

Human health: Producing cancer-fighting antibodies
Transgenic New Zealand goats have been genetically tweaked to help produce cancer-fighting therapies. Scientists have added genes in their genome to let them produce the desired antibodies in their milk.

COVID-19: 100 days of Coronavirus have sent shock waves through the food system
How COVID-19 has exposed problems in the food system - and how it has managed to adapt to the greatest disruption of our generation

Cellular agriculture: Cell-based milk is starting to gain traction
To date, cellular agriculture has been limited mainly to producing meat from cells. Now, a Singapore-based biotechnology start-up is creating cell-based milk - producing milk from mammalian cells without the animal itself. The company's primary focus is on high-value human breast milk, followed by cow milk.

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