Promoting diversity in animal farming

In this focus topic, solution strategies are developed on how to create new utilisation systems in animal husbandry by integrating diversity at the level of livestock species/breeds/lines and various husbandry and feeding regimes as well as their intelligent management.

This research topic focuses on the conservation and utilisation of biodiversity of established and new livestock species. We cover various agricultural production systems, from organic farming to conventional husbandry. Our aim is to identify and activate previously untapped potentials potential for sustainable food production, ecosystem design and value creation in rural areas.

Our research integrates disciplines such as genetics, genomics, ethology and physiology to understand trait expression and inheritance in different breeds and species. Through agile population management strategies, we not only safeguard genetic diversity, but also open up new perspectives for the commercial utilisation and protection of local breeds.

In order to demonstrate the potential of previously underutilised breeds or species, we are investigating whether non-conventional animal breeds are better suited to different husbandry and management systems and whether the conversion of biomass into feed and food can be made more efficient as a result.

In terms of sustainability, we are expanding feed resources for animal nutrition by integrating new species such as insects and aquatic animals. We are investigating the genetic architecture and breeding strategies for these species. Our focus is on understanding their needs in terms of husbandry, feeding and animal welfare.

Joint projects

Only a few animal species are used in modern livestock farming, while alternative breeds are often attributed positive characteristics that have hardly been scientifically proven. In order to better understand the potential of different livestock breeds and new, not yet bred species and to utilise them for sustainable production systems, we are investigating their characteristics in detail. In the project, we are comparing an alternative and a modern pig breed and examining how both behave in conventional and organic farming. We are investigating how the breeds develop under different conditions and assessing their suitability for different husbandry and management systems. In addition, several fish species and water buffalo are being genetically and phenotypically evaluated as new livestock species.

The black soldier fly (BSF) is a new species of farm animal. In order to better understand its potential and utilise it for sustainable agricultural cycles, we are studying it and its larvae in detail. Our project focuses on how well the larvae of the BSF can utilise residues and metabolise toxins. In order to improve their characteristics through a breeding programme, we are analysing their energy and nutrient intake, growth, body composition, microbiome and genetic diversity. At the same time, the larvae are used as animal feed. We are investigating how nutritious the larvae are when used as feed and whether they can improve animal welfare, for example through automatic delivery in poultry farming.

In livestock farming, there is a problem of genetic diversity being lost because, on the one hand, some breeds/lines are in particularly high commercial demand and, on the other hand, alternative breeds are typically only kept in small populations. In order to counteract this loss in a targeted manner, we are developing breeding methods in our project where, for example, the expected genetic diversity within a family helps to decide on the selection of parent animals. Statistical methods are also being developed to precisely record and estimate genetic diversity and to separate it according to its parental origin.