Massive Colorado State collaborative has big plans to feed the future

SOURCE: Andrea Leopardi/Unsplash
The collaborative will combine academic and industry knowledge to support sustainable livestock production methods.

By U2B Staff 

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Colorado State University (CSU) is leading a ‘first-of-its-kind’ collaboration to tackle livestock production challenges of the future, amid rising concerns that current systems would fail to meet the demands of a growing global populace.

The world currently produces more food than its 7.6 billion people can consume. But fast forward to the future and this may change drastically if today’s systems are not upgraded to accommodate a much larger population; by the United Nations’ estimates, the planet will need to feed 12.3 billion people by 2100.

Even the most conservative projections for world population growth say that food production will need to double in the next 30 years to meet minimum requirements. Without the advent of new solutions to prevent land degradation caused by deforestation, overgrazing and poor farming practices, this target may not be met. 


The CSU-led collaboration, dubbed the “Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative” was established to figure a way past this challenge.

“We’re trying to envision what society’s problems will be,” said Head of the Department of Animal Sciences Keith 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.”

The Sustainable Livestock Systems Collaborative will see CSU livestock production and animal health experts working alongside industry, government and other stakeholders to identify profitable yet sustainable methods for food production, as well as train current and future livestock industry professionals.

Spearheaded by the College of Agricultural Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVMBS), collaborative partners will seek to enhance current livestock production systems through the use of new technologies and disease treatments, as well as soil, plant, animal and atmospheric microbiomes, among other areas.

According to CVMBS Associated Dean for Research Dr. Susan VandeWoude, 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.”


Adding on, CVMBS Dean Mark Stetter echoed this, citing the importance of agriculture to the Colorado economy and the university’s role in contributing to its sustainability and growth.

“We recognise 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,” he said.

College of Agricultural Sciences interim dean James Pritchett described the collaborative effort as an “intentional and impactful” collection of the best and brightest minds from across university academia and industry. These experts, he said, will pool their ideas and resources to meet future challenges in livestock production.

“It’s knowledge creation at its best,” he said. “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.

“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.”


To put the collaborative together, CSU tapped the views of experts from across the university ecosystem, as well as that of industry.

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. 

Their combined feedback and participation make the initiative a truly collaborative project.

The university has also launched a national search for the project’s 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 will take his seat this summer while about a dozen or so members will be hired across the next four years.