Careful treatment of the environment is a key requirement for future livestock farming, with the anticipated climate change posing a particular challenge.
This calls for the efficient use of natural resources such as land and water and the least possible impact on the environment. Both require a comprehensive understanding of the regulation of metabolic processes in farm animals under different housing conditions. Accordingly, different control levels of the metabolism and behaviour are in the focus of this program area. On the one hand, differences in the phenotypic plasticity of farm animals will be elucidated and on the other hand, strategies will be developed to match husbandry systems with specific needs of the animals. Therefore molecular mechanisms of nutrient intake, transformation and partitioning, including intra- and extracellular signaling pathways as well as microbiome-host interactions are analyzed in order to improved energy, nitrogen and phosphate efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions and to develop biomarkers. Furthermore feeding and animal husbandry strategies facilitating adaptation to heat stress will be developed. Investigations on animal-environmental interactions finally aim at improving health, welfare and performance while reducing the environmental footprint of farm animals.
Research work within this cluster is dedicated to characterize molecular mechanisms of nutrient intake, transformation and partitioning in and between absorptive and post-absorptive organs of divergent metabotypes. These and further studies on microbiome-host interactions are conducted to identify animals with improved energy, nitrogen and phosphate efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Responses on environmental- and physiological changes comprise the interaction between cells and tissues and affect metabolic status and immunity. All of these reactions are controlled by biological rhythms. They influence different signalling mechanisms and depend on incorporation of nutritional components into specific cellular compartments. Aim of the cluster is to improve knowledge on such pathways in farm animals and animal models. Cellular signalling pathways associated with fatty acid uptake and lipid deposition are in the focus. Furthermore, auto-, para-, and endocrine acting signalling molecules derived from fat and muscle cells, adipokines and myokines, are investigated. The mitochondrial-nuclear crosstalk and its role for epigenetic programming and cellular stress reactions is another research topic in this cluster.
Investigations on farm animal-environment interactions aim at improvement of animal health, well-being and performance while reducing the environmental footprint. The ability of farm animals to exploit their performance potential largely depends on the ability to adapt to changing environmental conditions. A focus within the cluster is the development of feeding and animal husbandry strategies to facilitate physiological adaptation to heat stress. In addition, identification of indirect methane biomarkers, the effects of n-3 PUFA-supplemented feeding on skeletal muscle in pigs, and behavior-based technical solutions in animal husbandry will be investigated.