Systemic observations of the value chain of "food of animal origin" increasingly show that the viable sustainable production of food of animal origin can only be achieved holistically and at the cost of sub-optimal growth rates of certain public commodities or compromised sustainability criteria and that the resulting conflicts can be solved only by setting priorities.
Broad-ranging and multidisciplinary research results must be generated to responsibly meet the numerous disparate demands posed by the sustainable development of rural areas now and in the future, to minimize new risks, identify trade-offs, predict the consequences of land use and derive holistic, hierarchical sets of objectives.
An essential prerequisite for the sustainable production of food of animal origin that meets future needs depends on:
- the adoption of methods and processes with a very high potential for innovation and their practical translation into livestock breeding, husbandry and feeding
- the development of systemic, holistic approaches to livestock as an integral part of the value chain comprising food of animal origin
Our systematic approach to research looks at the animal (1) as part of a population at all biological levels according to its distinguishing characteristics and (2) as an element of the system under consideration and its interactions with it. This interdisciplinary research approach is a prerequisite for the development of sustainable animal husbandry.
Accordingly, the FBN pursues, as part of its strategic approach to research, the following two long-term research objectives:
1. A detailed and comprehensive phenotyping of livestock.
Fig. The animal as a system. The whole organism as an integrated map of all levels of genotype-phenotype expression.
In accordance with this long-term goal the following tasks will be pursued:
- Determination of the animal's structural and functional characteristics at all levels of its genotype-phenotype (from the genome to the phenomenon)
- A holistic integrative mapping of animal traits together with their biomathematical modeling and extrapolations using their biosignatures (predicative and improved phenotypes)
- Development of genetic-statistical models for the implementation of new phenotypes in animal breeding and management systems.
2. Elucidation and modeling of the functionality of the animal system
Fig. The animal as an element in a system. Holistic observations of the system as the interaction between its elements and its larger, outcome-oriented context.
Given these long-term goals, the following issues will be addressed:
Elucidation of basic biological functions at the molecular, cellular and organismal levels and the interaction of these functions under the influence of endogenous and exogenous factors
Identification of signal-processing central and peripheral networks and modeling of the functional interactions between their elements,
Representation of the system's functionality in terms of the functional or dysfunctional (either as a malfunction, breakdown or conflict) target system.
An important prerequisite for understanding the functionality of farm animals as a system in any particular context is a thorough understanding of the qualities and differences in their performance, which is scientifically comprehensible only through holistic observations of life processes as they respond to different animal environments. The required knowledge of structures and complex processes can only be gained through inter- and transdisciplinary research approaches, in which results from functional levels are integrated in the larger systemic context of the whole animal.