The Mechanical Milking and Milk Quality & Safety research line objective consists in examining how to improve mechanical milking systems used today with small ruminants (milking parameters, milk pipeline heights, and programming of equipment) in order to optimize farming profitability and improve animal welfare along with the quality and safety of milk. Similarly, different automatic methods for indirectly estimating mastitis are examined by measuring distinct variables in milk (electrical conductivity and enzymes) during milking or in mammary glands during milking (ultrasound and thermography).
The Animal Welfare line examines different hormones in milk as a non-invasive method for estimating levels of well-being in animals, and it has evaluated various factors that can affect their baselines. Current research is looking at different management technique alternatives oriented, on the one hand, to improving survival, well-being, and growth in goat kids through the incorporation of prebiotics during the artificial lactation stage and, on the other, to enhancing animal well-being through the optimization of different grooming equipment that improves the well-being in confined animals.
The Improving Farm Economic Viability through Eco-Efficient Use of Energy and Agro-Industrial Byproducts research line is achieving important advances in the use of vegetable by-products, from both the canning industry as well as what remains in fields after harvest, for feeding ruminants. Using these by-products for feeding animals is an economic source of nutrients, and also provides benefits related to environmental conservation: they reduce waste produced by the agro-food industry, and with it the costs of their disposal, as well as reducing the amount of land required to grow products for livestock, and with it the overall competition for land. To this, we must add taking advantage of local resources, which minimizes dependence upon foreign countries and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
The Rabbit Breeding and Welfare research line strives to improve rabbit meat. In recent years, interest has grown in studying resilience, which refers to the ability of animals to adapt to new environmental conditions while maintaining their productive qualities. This trait would be related to the animal's sensitivity to disease and stress. Through selection, reducing variability in the number of kits born throughout a mother's reproductive life is the criteria that our group has used to obtain animals that are more resilient. Specifically, our team has begun a divergent selection experiment to increase litter sizes and decrease litter size variability. After 10 generations of selection, the response has been 4.5% of the average of trait per generation, and a reduction in the litter size variability accompanied by an increase in the average trait has been observed. In this sense, the homogenous line presents around 1 kit more per litter than the heterogeneous line, and as such is more productive. Moreover, there has been a correlated response in the immunological response and the stress of the lines, with the homogenous line presenting lower susceptibility to disease and stress than the heterogeneous one. What's more, genotyping of these lines has been performed and genes related with the immune response and susceptibility to disease have been identified, which would support the results found in our lines.