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Forage 2000 - improve nutrient utilisation in ruminant production systems: development of cooperation and integration of research strategies to evaluate the potential of plant breeding and the use of other plant species in ruminant production systems

Contract nr: FAIR-CT97-3968
Project nr: 3968
Project type: CA
Starting date: 01/01/1998
Duration: 38 months
Total cost: 260,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 260,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Armin MÜNZINGER
Research topic: Optimisation of methods, systems and primary production chains
Acronym: FORAGE 2000

The concerted action proposed will bring together six partners in Northern Europe. The objective of the project is to create a working group of researchers from private and public institutions to evaluate potential for improving plant quality when used as forages for ruminants, to use new plants and improve the description of these, and to adjust plant breeding objectives and ruminant nutritional strategies, with the objective of reducing the environmental impact of ruminant production systems.

The programme will promote greater interaction and dialogue among researchers from private and public institutions from a wide range of biological disciplines. This will result in better integration of research effort and in more effective use of research resources within the EU. A catalogue will be developed of sources of data and research work already carried out. A web site will be set up. Fifteen workshops will be organised to evaluate the impact of novel developments in other specialist research areas and the impact it will have on specific work areas. Two conferences will be organised to promote further interaction and promote the work which has been carried out within the workshops. The work will result in improved integration of research effort in different areas of plant production and ruminant production. Major progress and its potential will be described in various specialist areas. The impact of this progress within various specialist subject areas will be evaluated. This will result in a reduced environmental impact of plant ruminant production systems, leading to the development of sustainable, low input, consumer friendly farming methods.
Through a better co-ordination, following benefits are going to be achieved

A) Technical and scientific
- Improved identification of research requirements.
- Increased sustainable development within production systems.
- Increased animal welfare.
- Improved identification of research areas that require vertical integration.

B) Economic
- Increased rural development through identification of viable options for improvement of current production systems and methods.

C) Environmental
- Protection of the environment through the development of systems that result in reduced nutrient losses to the environment.
- Reduced claims of ruminant production systems on limited natural resources, such as fossil energy.
- Increased biodiversity through reduced N-inputs and increase of number of plant species used in ruminant production systems.

Current situation/results:
The project is co-ordinated by five sub-groups that relate to specific aspects of forage research. The structure of the project has enabled specialists to identify the current state of the research in their specific area of interest. Specialist priorities have then been amalgamated into more general discussions between sub-groups, which has then led to a range of general research priorities being formulated. These have been formulated with industry, the environment and political objectives in mind.
The groups identified areas for future research and discussion. A number of topics were covered by more than one workshop, indicating that there is scope for future interdisciplinary work in these areas.

The project has succeeded in:
a) Amalgamating themes from individual sub-groups.
b) Listing important areas for future research and identifying expertise from Forage 2000 participants.
c) Incorporating farmer, industry and policy issues in relation to future research priorities.
d) Establishing a Forage 2000 web-site.
e) Completing and submitting first year annual report.
f) Putting reports from first year and second year annual meetings on the Forage 2000 web-site.
g) Improving communication between coordinators and participants by combined sub-group meetings, which promoted sequential development of ideas.
h) Having a Forage 2000 paper accepted for the EGF conference in May 2000.

The project is now working to its original timetable. Throughout the second year, there has been a commitment from all participants to develop ideas from the meetings in the first year. This has led to a natural evolution of research priorities. The final output can be classified under three broad headings:
1. Whole farm forage production and utilisation - a systems approach.
2. More efficient predictions of grazing intake to evaluate optimal whole-season grass utilisation.
3. Evaluating the effect of degradation of conserved forage on intake and production.


David Swain
Scottish Agricultural College
Crichton Royal Farm
Food and Farming Systems
Mid Park
Bankend Road
UK- DG1 4SZ Dumfries
Tel: +44 1387 26 39 61 ext 221
Fax: +44 1387 25 17 89


  • Christer Ohlsson
    Danish Institute of Plant and Soil Science
    Department of Forage Crops and Potatoes
    Research Centre Foulum
    PO Box 21
    DK-8830 Tjele
    Tel: +45 89 99 18 33
    Fax: +45 89 99 18 39

  • Michael T Abberton
    Institute for Grassland & Environmental Science (IGER)
    Plant Breeding
    Plas Gogerddan
    UK-SY23 3EB Aberystwyth
    Tel: +44 1970 82 31 83
    Fax: +44 1970 82 83 57

  • Jean-Louis Peyraud
    Intitut National de la Recherche Agronomique
    Station de Recherche sur la vache laitière
    F-35590 Saint Gilles
    Tel: +33 2 99 28 50 92
    Fax: +33 2 99 28 51 01

  • Ronald Zom
    Research Station for Cattle, Sheep and Horse Husbandry (PR)
    Department of Animal Production
    Runderweg 6
    NL-8219 PK Lelystad
    Tel: +31 320 29 32 11
    Fax: +31 320 24 15 84

  • Kjell Martinsson
    Swedish University of Agric. Sciences
    Department of Agric. Research for Northern Sweden
    PO Box 4097
    S-904 03 UMEAA
    Tel: +46 9 07 86 50 00
    Fax: +46 9 07 86 94 04
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