ADAPT-HERD - Management strategies to improve herd resilience and efficiency by harnessing the adaptive capacities of small ruminants

About Us

The objective of ADAPT-HERD is to develop management simulation tools to implement innovative strategies for resilience and efficiency (R&E) in small ruminants herds, based on harnessing animal adaptive capacities. These tools will address a wide range of current feed resource constraints in the Mediterranean area (Egypt, France, Spain and Tunisia) and the future perturbations induced by climate change. The locally tailored management solutions will improve the ability of livestock systems to adapt to climate change by: i) managing early-life nutrition to safeguard adult adaptive capacities; ii) managing reproduction to find the best match between feed supply and herd demand; iii) tailoring group feeding strategies depending on animals’ adaptive capacities and iv) managing herd demography with replacement and culling to adjust feed demand. To achieve this, ADAPT-HERD brings together information from animal and herd levels with: i) a fine-grained experimental approach (adaptive mechanisms and trade-offs); ii) field phenotyping of local breeds (adaptation to local conditions) and iii) local production environment characterization. These multi-level information will be used to develop computer models and test scenarios. Interfacing and disseminating project’s deliverables as a user-friendly toolbox will be achieved with a participatory modelling framework. The toolbox will help to adapt agricultural practices to change in resource availability by proposing different technical solutions of herd management aimed at facing feed resource perturbations induced by climate change. The challenge is not to find an optimal strategy for R&E, but to explore how management strategies impact the relationship between R&E. These strategies will be grounded in a deep understanding of how local breeds adapt to feed resource constraints. They will be complementary to on-going projects that focus on genetic selection and breeding solutions to improve R&E in small ruminants.

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Period of Implementations

Sep 1, 2019 - Aug 30, 2023

Total Budget

EUR 707.279,00

OUR IMPACT

Goals

ADAPT-HERD will develop management simulation tools to implement and design innovative strategies for resilience and efficiency (R&E) in small ruminant herds, based on harnessing animal adaptive capacities. These tools will address current feed resource constraints in the Mediterranean area, but will also deal with future perturbations induced by climate change in this area. They will cover a wide range of Mediterranean farming conditions with sheep and goat breeds from Egypt, France, Spain and Tunisia.

Objectives

The scientific objectives of the project are: • Quantify adult adaptive capacities of particular small ruminant genotypes and to what extent they can be enhanced at the herd level, especially through early-life nutritional strategies • Develop proxy measures of adaptive capacities, based on grounded biological knowledge and genetic background, to facilitate the phenotyping of these capacities in the field • Characterize lifetime trajectories of locally adapted breeds based on their strategies of feed resource acquisition and allocation between biological functions • Understand the associated trade-offs between biological functions and how they may have been shaped by years of in situ selection in a given fluctuating feed resource context • Develop prediction models capable of evaluating the consequences of management strategies on R& E at the herd level, under contrasting and varying environments • Explore the relationship, and potential trade-offs, between R&E at the herd level under different climate change and management scenarios (tipping points, early warning signals) The technological and innovation objectives of the project are: • Implement a participatory approach for developing models and tools, based on knowledge transfer between scientific partners and other stakeholders (starting with researchers from different disciplines, extension services, engineers, farmers and policy makers) • Develop innovative herd management strategies to improve R&E that will combine reproduction, herd demography (replacement and culling) and feeding management options, in accordance with local constraints on feed resource availability and quality • Develop tailored group feeding strategies based on the different type of animals (production purpose, physiological stages, capacity to face nutritional challenges such as feed shortage) while promoting herd resilience • Provide policy support, via the stakeholders, by using project tools to compare different scenarios • Create an initiative in the Mediterranean area to facilitate exchange of information on local breeds

Impact Pathway

ADAPT-HERD will improve the ability of Mediterranean sheep and goat systems to adapt to climate change by providing herd management solutions based on animal adaptive capacities. The project will deliver locally tailored practical solutions for herd management to optimise production and resilience of the herd to minimize farmer risk in the face of constraining and changing environmental conditions. These solutions will be specifically oriented toward: - Early-life nutritional strategies to safeguard adult adaptive capacity - Reproduction management as a way to match temporal distribution of feed supply and herd demand - Tailored group-feeding based on type of animals to face acute challenge (feed shortage) - Management of herd demography (replacement and culling) to adjust feed demand in anticipation of critical periods

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