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According to the FAO report "The State of Food and Agriculture 2009", consumption trends between the years 1961 and 2007 indicate a twofold increase in global demand for meat by 2050. There is likely to be a sharp increase in the risk of livestock production facing direct competition for cereals from human nutrition, and the regular criticism of meat production already seen today will only intensify. Tests conducted within the scope of the projects PASTO and TYPO (PA 2008-2011) found that meat production in mid-mountain areas suffered an energy deficit where feeding was solely grassland-based, requiring a high-energy finishing diet in the form of cereals in order to produce beef meeting market criteria.
An alternative source of energy does exist, however, and in large quantities in areas of Alpine cheese production: whey. In fact, disposal of whey is currently considered something of a problem in mountain areas.
The feeding and finishing of yearlings in cheese production zones could thus represent an interesting alternative for using the whey. Combining these two types of production in a manner that is complementary would contribute to the preservation of summer and mountain pastures and promote sustainable, ecological and economical production.
This will entail studying the behaviour, ingestion in particular whey-based diets the utilisation of grass among feeder cattle subject to different finishing diets, measuring its efficiency, contributing to the development of pasture-based production systems while, at the same time, helping to preserve the landscape and the continuity of Alpine pastures and maintain biodiversity in mountain areas.
The lifecycle of such a production system will be analysed, with particular attention given to methane emissions.
Such production has commercial potential on account of its added value (mountain beef / "Swissness"). The project will also entail characterising the meat with sensorial and physicochemical tests and identifying biomarkers to establish a link between the product and its locality, thereby guaranteeing traceability.
Another activity will be addressed by our group within the scope of MultiSward, a European project seeking to increase the competitiveness and sustainability of grassland-based systems using multi-species swards and multi-scale strategies for developing multifunctional grassland-based production. ALP's contribution will be to measure the proportion of the plant species of the swards ingested by cattle from a suckler herd.
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