Research on swine, dairy and poultry management aims to develop practices and production systems that ensure profitability for the producer, protect the environment and are sensitive to societal standards for animal care and well-being. Research is conducted either in specialized research facilities or on commercial farms, in collaboration with livestock producers.
The U of M is the first land grant institution in the Midwest to develop an organic dairy herd. Animal scientists and agronomists are studying how the various types of forages and feedstock available to livestock affect animal health and have economic implications to producers. ROC research emphasizes the nutritional needs of livestock with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and milk quality.
Dairy heifer research is paramount to improved efficiency in raising dairy heifers to maximize their milk production. The Research and Outreach Centers coordinate a unique partnership between commercial dairy farms, industry and the university in which multiple approaches are used to improve nutrition, health and management of dairy heifers from 2 days to 6 months of age. When the cows mature, their performance and health are tracked throughout their lives. This enables a more holistic approach to calf management.
Dairy cattle research includes breeding programs and herd effciency, and the unique program studies how dairy farmers make the transition from conventional to organic production.
Applied reproductive physiology research and outreach in beef cattle emphasizes improved productivity in livestock species for the benefit of producers and consumers in Minnesota and beyond. Scientists focus on optimizing herd performance via a variety of techniques, as well as studying how nutrition affects reproductive efficiency in beef cattle.
Beef research focuses on reproductive physicology as well as nutrition and improvement of beef products.
Pork production research includes a wide range of areas including alternative housing, odor management, and nutrition studies, as well as techniques for using manure as fertilizer and as a possible source of energy.
Conventional and alternative swine rearing facilities enable scientists to compare and contrast a wide range of housing, gestation and feeding practices with the goal of improving animal welfare while increasing productivity. Researchers and students at the centers also study best practices in manure management and odor reduction, as well as the nutritional value of alternative feeds created with byproducts from the biofuel industry.
Alternative production systems are usually implemented on smaller farms, with lower capital costs. This encourages more people to remain in rural Minnesota, strengthening the economic base that sustains family farms.
Scientists conduct experiements in alternative housing aimed at reducing piglet mortality.
Biofilters to scrub odors from the exhust air of confinement swine facilities have attracted public attention because of their success. For example, a confinement swine nursery equipped with biofilters has so little odor that it’s located within 500 feet of display gardens visited by tourists, gardeners and wedding guests, with no complaints about the smell. Numerous zoning officials, county commissioners, pork producers and interested citizens visit the site specifically to learn about the biofilter technology and implementation.