In a move to address the dramatic global demand for safe, high-quality protein-based food sources, Colorado State University has announced the creation of a first-of-its-kind collaborative to support profitable, sustainable and healthy livestock production.

The Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative is designed for CSU livestock and animal health experts to work alongside industry, government and other stakeholders in addressing 21st-century challenges as well as training current and future livestock industry professionals.

Spearheaded by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the collaborative will look at enhancing sustainable and healthy livestock systems through the examination of new technologies and disease treatments as well as soil, plant, animal and atmospheric microbiomes, among other areas.

CSU has tapped into expertise from across the university as well as industry in the design of the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative. This includes the Colorado Beef Council, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau and the Colorado Livestock Association as well as the Warner College of Natural Resources, the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, and CSU Extension.

As part of the initiative, CSU has launched a national search for a director who will lead a cadre of new faculty members in areas such as epidemiology, meat science, infectious disease, diagnostics, nutrition and livestock production. The new director, who will oversee the collaborative, is expected to be on board this summer, with as many as a dozen faculty members to be hired over the next four years.

“This new university center of excellence represents a unique collaboration between multiple areas within the university, government and industry partners to help support advances in livestock health and sustainability,” said CVMBS Dean Mark Stetter. “We recognize that agriculture is a key economic driver in Colorado and that, as the state’s land-grant university, we need to be a national leader in discovering new ways to help feed the nation and the world.”

James Pritchett, interim dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, added that the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative works hand-in-hand with the 21st-century land-grant mission.

“The collaborative is an intentional and impactful collection of scientists, educators and industry professionals all aligned to meet society’s greatest challenges,” he said. “We are using innovation and creativity to pose important questions, co-create science with diverse partners at the table, and then ensure that all have an opportunity to enjoy the benefits of our shared endeavors. It’s knowledge creation at its best. Success is not only answering the questions of today but is also building a nimble and adaptive collection of talent to meet tomorrow’s challenges."

21st-century challenges

With the United Nations projecting a global population of 12.3 billion people by 2100, the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative will take aim at finding sustainable and profitable solutions for feeding the world.


Dr. Susan VandeWoude, associate dean for research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, said the collaborative will produce practical research and training into how agriculture will be conducted in the next century while also taking into consideration environmental and production stresses and technological advancements.

“CSU is committed to contributing evidence-based knowledge in support of sustainable livestock production because it’s critical for the future of the livestock industry,” said VandeWoude, a leadership team participant who has spearheaded the collaborative’s development. “We are very committed and open minded to using all of the resources of the land-grant university.”

The committee that helped take the Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative from a recommendation to reality is composed of more than two dozen individuals.

In addition to Pritchett, Stetter and VandeWoude, the steering committee includes Keith Belk, head of the Department of Animal Sciences; Jan Leach, associate dean for research in the College of Agricultural Sciences; Wayne Jensen, head of the Department of Clinical Sciences; and Ajay Menon, the former College of Agriculture dean who now serves as president and CEO of the CSU Research Foundation.

“We’re trying to envision what society’s problems will be,” said Belk, who is leading the search for the collaborative’s director. “As the population continues to grow and as land and water become more valuable resources, we have to figure out how we are going to still produce enough food for up to as many as 12.3 billion people by the year 2100.”

Both Belk and VandeWoude stressed the importance of closely working with the livestock industry to provide research and training that meets its needs.

VandeWoude said CSU Extension will play a critical role in providing outreach and engagement with the livestock community in sharing research and information from the collaborative. She added that the collaborative will bolster educational opportunities for students interested in livestock and equine sciences — animals which the profession of veterinary medicine is rooted in serving.

“This is going to be a significant expansion of our expertise in livestock and production systems,” VandeWoude said.

Potential focus areas for Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative

  • Veterinary epidemiology
  • Spatial modeling of disease transmission and spread across landscape levels
  • Livestock and dairy systems analysis for productive efficiency, animal health and environmental sustainability
  • Risk management and profitability analysis for livestock and dairy at the enterprise, farm, and macroeconomic levels
  • Innovation in livestock and dairy production and health monitoring using novel technologies
  • Innovative training programs for undergraduate, veterinary professional, and post-graduate students
  • Microbiome interactions at the soil, plant, animal, and atmospheric levels
  • Food safety and livestock and dairy production system interactions
  • Livestock and dairy welfare and behavior in production systems