More than $4.5 million was awarded to Animal Sciences faculty for research in 2023


Min Du
Maternal obesity, AMPK and Developmental Programming

Over 40% of pregnant American women are obese, which negatively affects fetal development with long-term consequences for offspring health. Fibrosis, characterized by excessive accumulation of connective tissues, is responsible for functional deterioration of various organs and tissues. Previous studies found that maternal obesity leads to fibrosis in offspring with unknown mechanisms. We hypothesize that maternal obesity (MO) enhances the formation of fibrogenic cells during embryonic development, leading to fibrosis in offspring. Metformin, a common drug used to treat diabetes, activates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which is a master regulator of energy metabolism. We hypothesize that metformin can effectively suppress fibrogenic cell formation in MO fetuses by activating AMPK, improving the health of offspring born to the increasing number of obese mothers. Currently, we are conducting mouse studies to test our hypotheses.

Mike Phelps
Decoding the Salmonid Genome Project: A national resource for the large-scale functional characterization of genomic elements using gene edited rainbow trout

We are embarking on a groundbreaking study to understand how genetic changes influence salmon and trout growth and their ability to handle changing environmental conditions. The research is using large-scale CRISPR gene-editing technology in combination with high-throughput phenotyping and machine learning methods to identify regions of DNA that can improve growth and environmental resilience in rainbow trout. This study will provide insight into how fish grow and cope with varying environments in order to identify ways to improve the sustainability and productivity of fish culture while shedding light on the ways that wild salmon may adapt to future water conditions.

Holly Neibergs
Validation and characterization of loci associated with fetal loss in dairy cattle

Reproductive efficiency is critical for the cattle industry. Although fertilization rates are higher than 90%, many heifers and cows (30 to 56%) will lose their pregnancy during the first 42 days (embryonic loss) and more (3 to 11%) will abort before full term (fetal loss). This represents an annual economic loss of more than $1 billion. One cause of poor fertility in cattle is poor genetics. This study will focus on identification of the genetic source of poor fertility and provide a tool to select fertile cattle for the next breeding generation.

Marcos Marcondes
Inclusion of Brominata™ on the digestion and performance of dairy cows

We are evaluating the effect of adding an ex-tract from the red algae, Asparagopsis taxiformis, to the diets of Holstein dairy cows on methane (CH4) emissions. If the supplement successfully decreases CH4 without compromising the health or productivity of the cows, this research could offer a sustainable solution for reducing CH4 emissions from dairy cattle, contributing to global efforts in climate change mitigation. In another study we are exploring how different levels of zeolite clinoptilolite, a naturally occurring mineral, affects the ruminal microflora responsible for CH4 production using an artificial rumen fermentation system. The reduction of CH4 emissions is crucial not only for environmental sustainability but also for enhancing the feed and energy efficiency of dairy cattle.

Zhihua Jiang
Assembly of the bovine pan-transcriptomes for improved genome annotation and phenome prediction

To determine the connection between the genetic makeup of an animal (genome) and the observable physical or physiological traits or characteristics (phenome) in ruminant species, we will generate pan-transcriptomes in four ruminant species/sub-species. A pan-transcriptome is a combination of a transcriptome (complete set of RNA molecules in an organism) and a pan-genome (entire set of genes in a species). Successful completion of bovid pan-transcriptome resources will be used to understand the origins of 1) species/sub-species divergence, 2) sexual dimorphisms and 3) resistance and/or susceptibility to disease and stress.

Kristen Johnson
Worms working for change: How vermifiltration of dairy nutrients relates to carbon trading

Dairy producers need a variety of options to consider when working with wastewater. One such option might be vermifiltration, an aerobic process used to remove solids, nitrogen and phosphorus while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Manure must be managed to return appropriate nutrients when and where they are needed for soil health and food quality. Achieving synergy between animal production and environmental health requires an approach that supports new technology implementation to preserve nitrogen and prevent losses (e.g., GHG, nitrate). Harnessing and adapting current technologies for animal agriculture could generate significant economic savings on manure management costs, reduce nutrient losses to air and water, and provide an income stream through use of C-markets. Vermifiltration systems are emerging as low-cost and sustainable wastewater treatment technologies that convert agricultural water into valuable byproducts and are of great interest to diverse agricultural industries including dairies.

Gordon Murdoch
Technology to manage livestock location within RANGE and REALITY

Each year ranchers struggle repairing fence, installing new fencing in challenging terrain, and rounding up livestock that have escaped areas of intended retention. All of this comes at great financial and labor cost. We are focusing on developing a low- cost technological livestock containment system to manage herd/flock location and access to land. We will refine and test an ear-tag based virtual fence for livestock containment and exclusion.

Kim Davenport
A single-cell chromatin accessibility atlas of the developing bovine placenta

Only 30% of animals conceive and carry pregnancy to term, amounting to almost $1 billion per year in lost revenue on beef and dairy farms. Placental development is essential for successful reproduction. This project will use cutting-edge genomic technologies to under-stand genetic regulation of placental development at single cell resolution, and utilize this knowledge to further understand the influence of genetic variation on fertility traits in cattle. Further, it will allow for more precise identification of reproductively superior animals with the use of genomics, which will contribute to more profitable and sustainable cattle operations.
Gene regulation and expression diagram