SmartCow integrates key European cattle research infrastructures to promote their coordinated use and development and thereby help the European cattle sector face the challenge of sustainable production. Covering all the relevant scientific fields and the diversity of cattle types and production systems, SmartCow will provide the academic and private research communities with easy access to high quality services and resources. These are needed to develop innovative and ethical solutions for efficient use of animal and feed resources that promote animal welfare and healthy livestock, as well as sustainable competitiveness.
To reach this strategic objective:
At the networking level, SmartCow will allow better use of existing research infrastructures (RIs) and stimulate collaboration across research fields, production systems and national borders. In particular the project will:
- Link, coordinate and create the basis for synergistic research projects among cattle research infrastructures in Europe across the entire range of European dairy and beef cattle production systems (WP1, 3 and 4);
- Provide a system for harmonised and optimised transnational access (TNA) to state-of-the-art cattle RIs for any relevant scientific field (WP2), and develop and implement a TNA program that places SmartCow RIs at the centre of addressing key European research challenges in a coordinated way (WP2);
- Improve the quality and ethics of research on cattle through harmonisation of protocols and definition of common guidelines for research methods and data recording, development of a data management plan and organisation of the flow of data from the project in a common cloud-based data platform, as well as improvement of the animal trait ontology for cattle (WP3);
- Foster innovation through effective and sustainable dissemination, knowledge transfer and training to stakeholders and the next generation of scientists, students and technicians (WP4).
At the joint research level, the project will improve the quality, ethics and cost/benefit ratio of experimental services provided by SmartCow RIs. In particular the project will:
- Evaluate and refine state of the art in vivo methods in the field of nutrient use efficiency – i.e. the efficiency with which nutrients are converted to milk and meat – and emissions (e.g. methane emission, nitrogen losses) of cattle in order to improve their accuracy and reduce the number of experimental animals used (WP5);
- Develop, where possible, proxies (biomarkers) and less-invasive methods to reduce constraints on experimental animals and increase phenotyping capabilities for feed efficiency and its components, including methane emissions, in cattle (WP6);
- Exploit data coming from sensors in SmartCow RIs to develop a multivariate approach to phenotype health (lameness, mastitis, reproduction and digestive diseases), behaviour and feed efficiency in cattle (WP7).
At the transnational access level, SmartCow will promote key EU cattle experimental facilities and expertise to:
- Provide effective and convenient access to the eleven SmartCow key research infrastructures for dairy and beef cattle research by the academic and private sectors (WP2 and TNA WPs);
- Reach out to new users by publicizing widely the calls for access (TNA WPs and WP4) and promoting equal opportunities (e.g. Southern and Eastern European countries);
- Select TNA applications according to their excellence, feasibility, scientific priorities (WP2 and TNA WPs) and follow the principles of transparency, fairness and impartiality (e.g. gender issues).