Nutritional Physiology – Program

Identification of regulatory mechanisms for nutrient conversion in the metabolism of farm animals – contribution to animal-friendly nutrition that conserves resources

The units and workgroups at the Institute of Nutritional Physiology work in two research areas, together and in cooperation with the other FBN institutes. Studies are based on a systemic view on the level of the overall organism, selected organs and on the cellular and molecular levels.

1. Influence of perinatal nutrition on development, health and wellbeing

The transition from prenatal to postnatal life (birth or hatching of poultry) and weaning off milk are stressful situations in the life of animals. Animal and development-friendly nutrition is of great importance here and can play a crucial role for survival and development.
Furthermore, intrauterine and early postnatal nutrition factors can cause permanent changes in function and structure (programming).

We therefore research the effects of early nutrition on development, the metabolism, health, the immune system and microbial colonisation in calves (Endocrine Metabolic Regulation Unit, Metabolism Efficiency Unit) and piglets (Nutritional Programming Unit).

We also investigate whether the host-pathogen interaction can be modulated through specific nutritional supplements in chicks. The goal is to clarify causes for the variability of development in order to derive feeding and management recommendations for young farm animals.

2. Metabolism adaptation and efficiency under various environmental and nutrition conditions

Dairy cows are subject to high physiological demands that are intensified by husbandry and environmental factors. However, there is great variability between animals in their ability to adapt to stressors (functional biodiversity). At the same time, the efficient conversion of nutrients into animal products is of great importance, especially against the background of increasingly scarce resources and climate change.

We investigate the various adaptation strategies of dairy cows to metabolic stress in the peripartal period and their effects on regulation mechanisms of the energy and intermediary metabolism  (Endocrine Metabolic Regulation Unit, Nutritional Programming Unit) and on feed intake and the immune system (Metabolism Efficiency Unit). Here we are interested in the supply of nutrients and active substances in accordance with requirements and metabolic stress under elevated ambient temperatures.

In other projects we study the interaction of nutritional, microbial and physiological factors in regards to energy efficiency and methane emissions (Metabolism Efficiency Unit, Endocrine Metabolic Regulation Unit).