$19m project aims to breed low-emission livestock

Beef Central, 19/04/2022

Dr Sam Clark, Associate Professor in Animal Genetics, at Tullimba Research Feedlot.

BREEDING low-emission livestock is the aim of a new $19 million research collaboration, with the University of New England (UNE), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI) and Angus Australia.

UNE’s Professor Julius van der Werf and Associate Professor Sam Clark will lead two projects looking at the genetic improvement of sheep and cattle. If successful, Australian producers will have access to DNA-based breeding information that will lead to more methane-efficient livestock.

“These projects could result in a 25 percent reduction in methane emissions from Australian livestock by 2050,” Professor van der Werf said.

“While genetic improvement in reducing methane emissions is slow, the results are cumulative and the project expects to reduce methane emissions by one percent per head per year.”

Over the next five years, the team will measure the methane output of 8000 cattle and 10,000 sheep living in both feedlot and grazing conditions.

Associate Professor Clark will lead the $14.5 million beef component in partnership with the NSW DPI, MLA and Angus Australia, while Professor van der Werf will work with the NSW DPI and MLA on the $4.5 million sheep study.

“We’ll examine the variation between the animals, and the data will be used to predict which animals have the genetics that will lower the amount of methane an animal naturally produces,” Professor van der Werf said.

“Feed intake will also be measured, as feed efficiency might be aligned to animals that emit relatively less methane.

“Both teams will work closely with the Animal Genetic and Breeding Unit at UNE to produce methane breeding values for Australian cattle and sheep.”

While some of the research will be undertaken in controlled situations on research facilities owned by UNE and the NSW DPI, the projects will also measure methane outputs of commercial sheep and cattle on-farm.

“UNE’s Tullimba Feedlot is the largest research feedlot in Australia, so that will provide us with an invaluable opportunity to monitor the methane output of feedlot cattle,” Associate Professor Clark said.

“We’ll also get to look at the effects on animals in a range of environments, including those in the paddock, giving us the chance to engage with breeders from across Australia.

“Grazing cattle and sheep make up a huge proportion of the Australian livestock sector, so it’s important we capture this so we can make a real difference to the industry.”

Not only will this project benefit Australian breeders and producers, but the next generation of agricultural scientists and researchers will be given the opportunity to take part.

“We’ll have several students working on these projects, while all of our research will flow into our teaching, helping us to produce graduates at the forefront of innovation in agriculture,” Professor van der Werf said.

“Through this exciting research together with the NSW DPI and Angus Australia, UNE is continuing to help the agricultural industry act on climate change and become more sustainable.”

The projects will begin in April and fall under MLA’s Emission Avoidance Program through its Carbon Neutral Strategy.

Source: University of New England




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  1. David Harrison, 25/04/2022

    The Greens, Labor and other like minded sections of the community have done an excellent job of convincing the general public, and even the primary producers, that climate change, global warming, call it what you will, can be laid firmly at the feet of the very people who provide the food and fibre that nourishes the community. Take a look at any satellite image taken at night, and see where all the coal fired energy is being consumed. I guarantee you will not be able to pick out one primary producer. Every one of those lights belongs to people who live on non-productive ground. These properties are energy sinks that consume exorbitant amounts of energy and give nothing back. Most of these areas were once food producing. It is about time these people were made to take responsibility for their contribution to “climate change/global warming”. Primary producers and mining seem to be convenient whipping boys. That is how detached from reality the urban population has become.

  2. David+Dwyer, 20/04/2022

    I would be interested to know if they plan to trial any Bos Indicus breeds within this trial – considering they are predominantly pasture feed animals.

  3. John Wyld, 19/04/2022

    If the whole carbon cycle is measured, i.e. the CO2 absorbed by the grass and other herbage that cattle eat to create their emissions, then ruminants are not the problem as often stated.
    Cattle in a highly productive grass finishing regime may even be a solution, not a problem.

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