The Department for Research on Livestock Production of Agris Sardinia is the body of the Regional Government of Sardinia to carry out research, innovation and technological transfer aimed at developing livestock sector in Sardinia. It consists of 79 employers, 18 out of them are permanent researchers. It is organised in 4 research units: Genetics and Biotechnologies, Animal Nutrition, Reproduction and Farming Systems.
The department manages four experimental farms:
- Bonassai: 323 ha (sheep and goat);
- Foresta Burgos: 987 ha (local breeds of cattle and goat);
- Macomer: 147 ha (local sheep breed in extinction - Pecora Nera di Arbus);
- Monastir: 172 ha (genomic flock of Sarda breed of sheep).
It collaborates with the Italian Association of Sheep Breeders (ASSONAPA) in the management of the Artificial Insemination Center of Bonassai with on average 70 rams used yearly in artificial insemination programs. Each year around 5,000 inseminations are performed and fertility data of the involved flocks (around 180) are analyzed by statistical procedures to assess the results of AI and natural mating. The genetic team is also in charge of the genetic indexation of the Sardinian breed of sheep and carries out studies on the application of genomic tools for the genetic improvement of this breed. In this framework, it performs GWAS on main economically relevant traits by analysing DNA bead chips in the connected laboratory of Porto Conte Ricerche. It was involved in “3SR-Sustainable Solutions for Small Ruminants” (FP7 project) developing sustainable genetic markers for mastitis susceptibility, resistance to nematodes and ovulation rate with INRA, Roslin Institute and PTP as main partners.
The laboratory of reproduction is equipped with microscope, incubators, sterile room for fertilization. The main research activities of the reproduction team are: biotechnology of reproduction (in vitro and in vivo embryos production), semen technology preservation (fresh and frozen) and physiology of reproduction in sheep and goat. In the last few years, the reproduction team has undertaken studies on sustainable reproduction managements without the use of hormones.
The main research activities in animal nutrition regard the study of methods and develop technologies for improving the efficacy and efficiency of feeding with particular focus on grazing. Recent studies have been aimed at increasing the fertility and prolificacy of dairy sheep by the use of flushing with lupine seed or glycogenic mixtures, associated with the ram effect.
The Department provides scientific support to the regional Association of livestock farmers (ARAS) and the Italian Association of Sheep Breeders (ASSONAPA). ARAS with around 250 technicians (agronomists and veterinarians) provides an advisory service to around 6,000 farmers and manages large datasets of production, quality and fertility data at farm level. ASSONAPA is in charge of national programs of genetic improvement of sheep and goat and manages large datasets including individual records on production, quality and reproduction traits.