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Infrastructure in Animal Nutrition Research(Interview with Dr. Jaap Van Milgen)

Dr. Edgar Oviedo collaborator and co corresponding author for nutriNews International had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Jaap Van Milgen a senior researcher at INRAE in France. Dr. Van Milgen reviewed the importance of adequate infrastructure in animal nutrition research. This interview took place during the 7th EAAP International Symposium on Energy and Protein Metabolism and Nutrition (ISEP 2022) held in Granada (Spain) from September 12-15, 2022. Infrastructure-ISEP Dr. Oviedo: We are here at ISEP 2022 with Dr. Jaap Van Milgen. He has worked in Animal Nutrition for several years, and is a well-known researcher within this field. He will be presenting tomorrow on the need of developing infrastructure to carry out research on animal nutrition. Dr. Van welcome to nutriNews International. Could you tell us a little bit about what you will be discussing tomorrow during your meeting? Dr. Jaap Van Milgen: Hi and thank you for having me. Yes, what we are going to talk about is infrastructure and what are our need for the future. In regards to having infrastructure for pigs and this is done in a European context as I coordinate project called Pig web. You can look it up on google, where you will find all the information about it. It is based in Europe, and it has funding for a five-year period. It has different aspect to it, amongst which one of these is that we have opened the possibility for external researchers to come in and carry out their research within our infrastructure, and this will be paid for by the EU commission. Another topic that we are dealing with is evaluating what infrastructure are we going to need in the future? How can we develop it, share it, make it more compatible to share data amongst researchers, etc. Therefore, I will be addressing this very specific issue related to Europe, because the European Parliament has asked the EU Commission to develop an action plan for animal experimentation in Europe. With the only exceptions being for medical issues, diseases, but animal research was not indicated as something that is absolutely necessary. Therefore, we as animal scientist must think about what are our arguments towards society, towards legislators, to support the fact that we need to establish better estimates for requirements, as the information we have today is not enough. We need to convince society that that animal research is necessary for the future! Dr. Oviedo: That is very interesting Dr. Jaap. What priorities do you think we must follow? Must we focus on emissions and environmental impact? Must we also include overall sustainability and the concept of circular economy for a better use of our resources? Dr. Jaap Van Milgen: I think all the aspects that you need are crucial, and these are the aspects that society is concerned about when talking about the acceptance of animal production research. So, we have to be much more open towards society in regards to what we are doing. In animal production we don’t tend to be very open towards society regarding what we are doing. We are not very keen on showing images of our animals in productive environments, or even less when they are in experimental settings, but we have to be much more open towards society about what we are doing. That way people can make an informed choice of whether they want to consume animal derived products or not. Dr. Oviedo: That is perfect. Another aspect that must be considered in animal production, is the animal behavior and how these react regarding modifications in the way certain nutrients are presented to them, as well as changes in feeding times, etc. These types of factors also influence public opinion regarding animal research and production.  Do you think that the application of new sensors, cameras with machine vision systems, and other tools of this sort should be adopted within research centers? Dr. Jaap Van Milgen: Absolutely, that is something that has changed over the last few years, and it going to continue to change even more in the near future. We all have a cellphone with a few sensors in it, and Google or other make software that integrates this information and this makes life easier for us in certain aspects. Animal research and animal production will use these types of tools in the future. Robotic milking in cows has existed for several year now, while precision feeding in swine is a more recent tool. Regardless of how old or new these tools may be, it is a fact that we are monitoring parameters much more these days. This is very important, considering the fact that such monitoring reduces the need of invasive and experimental research. As we can monitor animals continuously by looking at their feed intake patterns, we can use cameras to follow them, we can use infrared sensors to detect if they might have a disease, and we can do this on an individual basis. This represents tremendous asset for the future. Read full interview here

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