Momentum growing in low-methane beef genetic research

Beef Central, 31/01/2023


PHENOTYPING has started in the Australian beef industry’s $15 million research project to examine the genetics of methane emissions in beef cattle.

The collaborative research effort is being led by the University of New England, with key collaborators including Angus Australia, NSW DPI and Meat & Livestock Australia.

The five year project aims to deliver decision making tools to identify cattle with genetic advantages for high productivity and low greenhouse gas impact. It will focus on compiling existing and creating new data on beef cattle methane emissions, measured specifically for genetic evaluation, with the aim to generate methane emission research breeding values.

Leading the project is Dr Sam Clark, Associate Professor in Animal Genetics at the University of New England, Armidale.

The goal is to record close to 8000 animals from the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program and Southern Multi-Breed Project on pasture and grain for methane output. Having methane output on individual animals will help researchers make sure the industry is selecting for animals with lower methane output per unit of beef, while underpinning genomic selection technologies so producers can select more animals that are methane efficient.

Results from the ASBP steers will be used to form the Angus-specific reference population, as well as the overall beef industry reference population, when combined with the Southern multi-breed project data.

The project will also examine, using rumen samples from steers and heifers, whether methane produced in a paddock setting is the same as methane produced in a feedlot. It will also investigate how methane output interacts with profit-driving traits such as growth rate, fertility, feed intake, carcass weight and quality.

The end goal is to develop a breeding value EBV for methane emissions, allowing cattle producers to select bulls that are good for production traits, as well as being efficient for methane emissions.

With the Australian red meat industry committing to a net zero emissions target by 2030, breeding for low methane emissions is an attractive strategy due to it’s potential to deliver cumulative and permanent change in the national beef herd over generations.

Angus Australia’s general manager for genetic improvement, Christian Duff said the project would support the industry in breeding cattle that are profitable for the supply chain, while meeting the environmental expectations of global consumers.

“Through this, we can contribute to the goals and expectations of government, industry and, most importantly, the beef consumer, which will be paramount going into the future,” he said.

Livestock emissions will be measured using world-class technology which records the amount of carbon dioxide and methane in an animal’s breath as they eat an attractant. This technology will be installed at key beef cattle R&D locations including The University of New England’s Tullimba feedlot, where most of the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program bred steers are fed and tested for feed intake.

“Through the project findings, Angus Australia hopes that our members, and the broader beef industry, will soon be in a position to consider including selection for lower methane emissions in their overall breeding objective,” Mr Duff said.





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  1. Marina Fortes, 22/03/2023

    It is great to see this kind of research happening!

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