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The unit in short

Set up in 2012, the UMR Herbivores is a joint research unit between:

  • The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE)
  • The Institute of Higher Education and Research in Food, Animal Health, Agroscience and the Environment (VetAgro Sup).

We conduct research on cattle and sheep, and their production systems in the context of climatic hazards and global warming. We mobilise our strong expertise on feeds value, quality of meat and dairy products, animal welfare and metane emissions to address:

  • Efficiency of animals and systems, with studies aiming at characterising the determinants of efficiency at the animal, farm and (agro ecological) system levels,
  • Construction, evaluation and prediction of sensory and nutritional qualities of meat, milk and cheese, with studies on extrinsic and intrinsic determinants as well as biomarkers of qualities,
  • Adaptive capacities and robustness, with studies on the determinants of robustness, the trade-offs between functions, and the levers for improving welfare,
  • Environmental impacts and services due to livestock, with studies to characterise and evaluate the ecosystem services used and provided by livestock systems and their environmental impacts (greenhouse gases and nitrogen wastes).


Various approaches and frameworks are used. We combine experiments on animals, use of databases (especially for integrative biology or for meta-analyses), modelling (of a function, a farming system, or an evaluation), system experiments, or follow-up of commercial farms (organic farms as well conventional ones).

To design innovative sustainable agroecosystems, we explore:

  • Agroecology, to integrate natural processes in the design of productive and balanced systems,
  • Precision livestock farming to closely manage farms and avoid wastes,
  • Private-public partnerships to foster innovation.

The unit hosts

  • 121 tenured staff of whom 74 researchers and engineers
  • 80 temporary staff each year of whom 20 PhD students and post-doctoral fellows

Each year we produce about 120 scientific papers and we deliver 400 h of lectures on animal nutrition, behaviour and breeding.


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