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The 2008 Farm Bill: Making an Impact through NIFA

Animal Health Production and Products

Animals are one of the most important aspects of agriculture in America. Since the 2008 Farm Bill was signed, NIFA’s investments in animal science have found new and better ways to advance animal production technology, enable the industry to respond to consumer demand, and advance human health and nutrition through better animal health and breeding. NIFA’s animal-related programs—which include beef, dairy cattle, poultry, swine, sheep, goats, and aquaculture—encourage a multidisciplinary approach to research, education, and extension activities.


Animal breeding and genomics

NIFA-funded projects focus on understanding how the interaction of genes and environment affect animal health, growth, productivity, and well-being.

Animal health

NIFA’s unique role in the fight against animal disease includes providing funds to partners who conduct small-scale research to respond to disease outbreaks; stimulating interstate cooperation; targeting diseases of national, state, and regional importance; and disseminating animal health information.

Animal nutrition and growth

If an animal receives too few nutrients in its diet, the result can be poor growth and health; however, too much can lead to environmental damage in the form of odor and water pollution through nutrient runoff. NIFA-funded projects investigate the nutritional, biological, and genetic factors of animal growth, development, and nutrient digestion.

Animal products

Many elements affect the quality and safety of animal products. The projects that our partners undertake examine processing, technology, marketing, and value-added products.

Animal reproduction

Effective breeding affects the profitability of many animal production systems. These projects conduct basic and applied research to control animal reproductive efficiency and educate livestock and poultry producers.


Concentrated calving saves money for Florida ranchers

University of Florida researchers have discovered that they can reduce costs and increase profits for the beef producers if a higher percentage of cows calve during a more concentrated timeframe and earlier in the calving period. Integrating reproductive management technologies  into management systems shows that it costs 75 cents to $1.50 per day to raise one post-weaned calf, and 70 percent of that cost is feed-related. Cattle producers who feed specific supplements can save $3.65 to $9.24 per head during the backgrounding phase (90 to 120 days). Statewide, the Florida cattle industry can save $1.9 to $7 million each year.

New breeding technology improves dairy industry

For over 50 years, American dairy farmers have used selective breeding to produce dairy cows that produce more milk. The problem with this expensive process is that it takes about 5 years to “progeny” test a bull, but other breeding techniques were less reliable in their ability to pass on desired genetic traits. A team of NIFA-funded scientists  from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, land-grant universities, and the dairy industry have developed a new genetic test (a genotyping assay) that can assess an animal immediately after birth. About 10,000 animals were genotyped,  and researchers used the data to develop a new breeding selection method called genome selection. The genome selection method simultaneously reduced animal selection time (from 5 years to 1 week) and increased prediction accuracy by more than 30 percent for most traits.

The dairy industry quickly adopted  this technology and has since genotyped  more than 500,000 dairy cattle for estimated annual benefits of $100 million per year. Success in this Maryland-based  program has led to projects that aim to develop similar genotyping assays for beef cattle.

Program helps veterinarians pay back college tuition

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) helps large animal veterinarians  pay back college tuition. Under VMLRP, veterinarians are encouraged to serve for 3 years in designated areas of the nation that are hampered by a shortage of food-supply sector veterinarians. Those who enter the program receive up to $25,000 per year to help repay the educational debt they incurred in veterinary school—which averages $140,000. The growing shortage of food-supply veterinarians is a threat to agricultural animal health and well-being, agro-security, human public health, food inspection/food safety, and the rural animal agriculture economy at large. In its first 3 years, VMLRP has placed over 170 highly qualified veterinarians in prioritized shortage  areas. The program is highly competitive, as shown by an application success rate of roughly 30 percent.

Missouri research looks to breathe fresh air into cattle operations

Concentrated animal feeding operations  (CAFO) are an important  economic force in rural areas, bringing an estimated $1.1 billion  annually to northwest Missouri alone. However, odor from these facilities has a significant negative impact on neighboring property owners and residents. University of Missouri researchers are working to develop effective biofilters that producers can use to filter out and break down compounds that create strong odors. In addition, they developed a computer model that allows large producers to inexpensively estimate the extent of gas emissions from their operations. Developing technologies will help CAFOs become better neighbors and allow rural regions in northwest Missouri to benefit economically without sacrificing air quality.

Iowa State University researchers work to take the heat off swine

NIFA awarded a 5-year project to investigate how heat stress affects a pig’s metabolism and performance. Heat stress is one of the costliest issues in the U.S. pork industry. Researchers at Iowa State University are investigating how heat stress can influence a pig’s fetal development and postnatal life, including the ability to develop and grow. The knowledge this study provides will become increasingly valuable as producers work to mitigate severe summer temperatures.

Coordinated AG project improves poultry health

Highly pathogenic  avian flu viruses pose a constant threat to both human health and poultry well-being, but stronger biosecurity measures keep influenza out of poultry flocks and away from people. With NIFA funding, a group of universities led by the University of Maryland and scientists from USDA developed new tools that help better prevent, control, and manage future outbreaks of avian flu in the United States. Through this collaboration, partners have developed educational material to help people better understand avian flu and its affect on both poultry and human health.

Highlights of the project include:

  • eXtension online training modules for three different audiences—backyard flock owners, youth and 4-H members,  and emergency responders—to improve bird flu biosecurity;
  • A 4-day certificate course that trains industry, state, and federal responders how to control catastrophic disease outbreaks;
  • A poultry handling and transportation quality assurance program;
  • Instructions  on how to kill flu virus on equipment used during emergency responses; and
  • Commercialization of two rapid detection tests that are used worldwide to quickly test whether birds have avian flu.


University of Massachusetts leads U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network

Just as you cannot effectively repair a car without proper tools, animal diseases cannot be studied well without particular products, known as immune reagents. University of Massachusetts-Amherst leads a public-private partnership that links four academic institutions  with three federal laboratories and one private company to form the U.S. Veterinary Immune Reagent Network. The network now offers over 20 new, low-cost commercial tools to animal disease researchers to speed the development of new vaccines, diagnostic tests, and the identification of better intervention approaches to improve animal health and animal welfare. The network will serve to enhance  the safety of the nation’s agriculture and food supply through improved animal disease control.

Kentucky-led national project helps communities with agrosecurity planning

The NIFA-funded Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) helps local governments respond to agricultural disasters at county and state levels. One of EDEN’s many Cooperative Extension programs, “Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning,” helps build a community’s capacity to handle agricultural issues during an emergency by improving networking among responders and establishing or enhancing the agrosecurity components of local emergency operations plans. The University of Kentucky-led program trained over 1,100 people(who serve more than 16 million county residents) at 24 workshops in 20 states during the past three years. More than 100 counties have improved their agricultural emergency response plans, and confidence has risen among participants about their ability to respond to any agricultural disaster.

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