Oklahoma State University receives $4 million grants to advance and revolutionize livestock animal research.
Grants Livestock Research

Advancing Animal Sciences

The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has recently allocated a substantial combined grant of $4 million to support several innovative research projects for animal and veterinary sciences at Oklahoma State University (OSU). These groundbreaking projects aim to revolutionize livestock management, promote animal health, and contribute to sustainable agriculture practices. The diverse range of projects covers topics such as efficient forage usage, probiotics as growth enhancers, genome differences, prenatal stress on pig microbiomes, antibiotic alternatives for livestock diseases, and finding a cure for a costly pig disease.

Dr. David Lalman, a prominent OSU professor and Extension specialist for beef cattle, along with his team, is leading a crucial project focused on finding cows that are highly efficient at utilizing forage. By identifying animals proficient at converting forage into beef, the research aims to reduce production costs and minimize the carbon footprint of beef production. The team will analyze different stages of production to pinpoint the most efficient animals without resorting to conventional feed intake tests. The initial data indicated that the most efficient cows consume about 22% less forage and produce approximately 11% less methane compared to their less efficient counterparts. This promising discovery could lead to substantial savings in feed costs and a more sustainable beef production industry.

Another innovative project led by Dr. Peter Muriana, research professor and Extension specialist for food microbiology, delves into the use of probiotics as an alternative to growth-promoting antibiotics in swine feed. The objective is to enhance animal growth and nutrient utilization without the risk of promoting antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could affect human health. By selecting beneficial probiotic bacteria and supplementing them with prebiotic growth supplements, this research aims to achieve efficient weight gain in swine, paving the way for safe and effective alternatives to traditional growth-promoting agents in various food production animals.

Dr. Darren Hagen, assistant professor in animal and food sciences, is leading a research team working to unravel the mysteries of animal genomes. The genome is the complete genetic material present in an organism, and understanding its structure and interactions is essential for future advancements in animal research. By studying the three-dimensional structure of the genome and its impact on gene expression, the team seeks to identify genetic patterns that directly influence economically significant traits in animals. This research could lead to a deeper understanding of genetics, enabling targeted breeding strategies for enhanced milk production, weight gain, and other desirable characteristics.

Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, associate professor of animal and food sciences, aims to explore how microorganisms in the gut of stressed mother pigs affect the health and well-being of their unborn piglets. Stress during pregnancy can have long-term effects on the offspring’s physiological and behavioral traits, impacting their overall health and welfare. The research aims to identify the role of gut microbes and immune responses in stressed mothers and their impact on the development of piglets. By gaining a better understanding of this gut-brain-immune axis, researchers hope to improve animal welfare and optimize animal agriculture practices.

Due to the rise of antibiotic-resistant pathogens, there is an urgent need to find alternatives for controlling livestock diseases. Dr. Glenn Zhang, OSU Regents Professor and Boulware Endowed Chair of Animal and food sciences has made significant strides in discovering small molecular compounds, known as epigenetic compounds, that can enhance host defense and resistance to necrotic enteritis in poultry. This research aims to identify the best combinations of epigenetic compounds that can effectively alleviate diseases, providing an innovative class of antibiotic alternatives for poultry and potentially other livestock species.

Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) poses a significant threat to the U.S. pork industry, causing severe losses annually. Dr. Xufang Deng, OSU assistant professor of physiological sciences, is leading an ambitious project to develop oral PEDV live vaccine candidates that can stimulate robust lactogenic immunity in sows. Lactogenic immunity, the transfer of protective antibodies through milk, is crucial for protecting piglets. By identifying immune antagonists in the virus and creating safe oral vaccine candidates, this research aims to control and prevent PEDV while potentially providing insights into developing vaccines against other pig intestinal coronaviruses.

Bovine herpesvirus 1 (BoHV-1) is a major cattle pathogen responsible for bovine respiratory disease, leading to significant economic losses in the cattle industry. Dr. Jeff Ostler, assistant professor of veterinary pathobiology, is leading a project that focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind BoHV-1 reactivation during stress, which contributes to the spread of the virus. By targeting specific proteins that drive the reactivation of the virus, the research aims to develop therapeutics that block reactivation and reduce the spread of BoHV-1. This advancement could lead to improved health outcomes in cattle, reduced economic losses, and enhanced industry stability.

The allocation of $4 million in grants from the USDA NIFA to these diverse and promising research projects at Oklahoma State University is a testament to the importance of advancing animal sciences. These projects have the potential to revolutionize livestock management, promote animal health and welfare, and contribute to a more sustainable and efficient agricultural industry. The outcomes of these studies have far-reaching implications not only for livestock producers but also consumers and the overall well-being of our environment. As these research endeavors continue to progress, the future of animal sciences appears brighter than ever.

Image provided by Oklahoma State University

%d bloggers like this: