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Livestock Production & Disease Management

These two realms of research are combined into one area of inquiry because of the intersecting challenges livestock producers face due to the constant threat of diseases. While diseases can reduce the performance and the efficiency of overall production, it is feed that typically comprises the largest cost of animal production. Limited supplies of feed - or more frequently specific nutrients - can have negative consequences on animal health.  

Our previous research--in Phase I--focused primarily on improving feed and forage quantity and quality, reducing mastitis, and improving pig, sheep, goat and dairy production. Several innovations for enhancing livestock production were developed, including a dairy farm evaluation tool validated in Rwanda and a ration balancing app for Nepal. Significant milk production gains were realized with improved feeding, but more research is needed on feed value chains and their potential economic benefits. In Phase II, livestock production related research should address these areas/domains:

  • Resilient livestock systems: Research the forage supply chains for peri-urban and pastoralist production systems in order to align production with demand, increase resilience, and provide opportunities to transition from pastoral to agropastoral systems.
  • Feed price-quality relationship: Analyze and demonstrate production and economic gains through using higher quality forages and feed to promote quality-based pricing systems.
  • Milk preservation: Examine sustainable alternative cooling strategies that improve milk quality and safety. Assess strategies to maintain milk quality during transport, handling, and processing at collection centers to ensure better milk for consumers.
  • Reducing production costs to reduce prices of animal-source foods: Study the main factors contributing to high cost of livestock-based food prices (in coordination with Markets and Innovation Translation). Determine the efficacy of using tools to reduce production costs, increase farm profits, and reduce food prices.

A high burden of infectious and/or metabolic diseases can have a detrimental effect on food security, access to animal source foods, human nutrition, as well as income from livestock sales.

Previous research focused on assessing young stock mortality and mastitis; improving disease surveillance and animal health service delivery and  examining strategies to treat diseases of various livestock species. In Phase II, the disease management related research scope is expanded to include:

  • Improved disease management: Research to pilot improved disease management practices and innovative delivery methods. The research will use a One Health approach to contribute to healthier human populations and environments at the household, village, regional, and national levels.
  • Epidemiology and Economics: Research to estimate economic impacts of diseases and mortality on livestock production and revenue at the household, village, regional, and national levels. Research results can directly contribute to the Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBAD) programme. In addition, research on the return on investment from a range of existing or new animal-health interventions in livestock populations will be conducted to help policy makers with resource allocation decisions.
  • Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs): In consultation with the Bureau for Global Health and local public and private stakeholders, assess the need to formulate, implement, and evaluate PPPs for delivery of animal-health services in focal countries. This could address: 1) research/extension partnerships for delivery of animal health services; 2) operation of accredited private laboratories; and 3) other initiatives of interest to focal country stakeholders.

Livestock diseases can have direct, severe, and widespread repercussions on the productivity, profitability and existence of livestock systems. It also impacts the nutrition, health, and incomes of vulnerable livestock keepers. Public health services may struggle to control, let alone prevent, the spread of diseases. As livestock numbers grow and infectious and zoonotic diseases spread among livestock and humans, this line of research grows ever more urgent. 

Journal Articles


The Livestock Production & Disease Management team is led by Dr. Geoff Dahl and Dr. Jorge A. Hern√°ndez.


Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems is part of Feed the Future

This work was funded in whole or part by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Resilience, Environment and Food Security under Agreement # AID-OAA-L-15-00003 as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. Additional funding was received from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation OPP#060115.  Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors alone.