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The unit in short

Set up in 2012, the UMR1213 Herbivores is a joint research unit between

  • the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)
  • 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. We acquired a strong expertise on CH4 emissions, animal welfare, feeds value, and product qualities. We build on this expertise to address:

  • Adaptive capacities and robustness of animals, with studies on trade-offs between functions, resistance to diseases and stress, and integrated management of health and welfare;
  • Feed efficiency of animals and farms, with studies on digestive and metabolic processes, multicriterion evaluation of feed values – especially non-competitive feed resources -, and management of the forage system;
  • The construction and prediction of sensorial and nutritional qualities of meat, milk, and cheese, with studies on biomarkers and practices;
  • The valuation of complementarities to increase farm systems’ sustainability and resilience, with studies on synergies between system components be they animals, feeds, or productions (mixed farming systems);
  • Ecosystem services and dys-services provided by farming systems, including economics and regulating services (impacts on biodiversity, pollination…) vs.  emission of wastes (CH4, N), with studies  on underlying functions and impact of practices.


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 as 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

  • 124 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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