$15m project assessing the genetic traits of cattle methane

Christian Duff, General Manager Genetic Improvement, Angus Australia, Sam Clark, Associate Professor at the Animal Genetics School of Environmental and Rural Science UNE, Tom Granleese, Animal Breeding and Genetics. Photo: Angus Australia

The Australian beef industry has launched a $15 million research project to study the genetic traits of methane emissions in cattle.

The research is being led by the University of New England (UNE) in collaboration with Angus Australia, the NSW Government and Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

The project aims to provide decision support to identify cattle with genetic advantages for high productivity and low greenhouse gas emissions. It will focus on the collection of existing and creation of new data on methane emissions from beef cattle, measured specifically for genetic assessment, with the aim of generating methane emission research breeding values.

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With Australia’s red meat industry committed to a net-zero emissions target by 2030, breeding for low methane emissions is an attractive strategy as it has the potential to create cumulative and lasting changes in the national cattle herd over generations. Research will also examine how methane output interacts with profitable traits such as growth rate, fertility, feed intake, slaughter weight and quality.

Christian Duff, Angus Australia’s General Manager – Genetic Improvement, said the project will help the industry breed cattle that are viable for the supply chain, while also meeting the environmental expectations of global consumers.

“Angus Australia’s commitment to this cutting-edge community project demonstrates how our organization and our members, Angus cattle farmers, will be part of the solution to developing tools to reduce methane emissions from livestock. This allows us to contribute to the goals and expectations of the government, the industry and most importantly the beef consumer, which will be of paramount importance for the future.”

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Animal emissions are measured using world-class technology that records the amount of carbon dioxide and methane in an animal’s breath when it eats an attractant. This technology will be installed at key beef cattle R&D sites, including the University of New England’s Tullimba Fattening Facility, where most of the steers bred under the Angus Sire Benchmarking Program (ASBP) are fed and tested for feed intake.

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Specifically, the project aims to record methane emission data from 2,000 Angus Steers from the ASBP, from Cohort 11 to
Cohort 15. In combination with other industry projects, data on methane emissions will be collected from over 8,000 Australian cattle

“Based on the project results, Angus Australia hopes that our members and the broader beef industry will soon be able to incorporate selection for lower methane emissions into their overall breeding goal,” said Mr Duff.

The Low Methane Beef Project is led by Dr. Sam Clark, Associate Professor of Animal Genetics, University of New England, Armidale.

dr Clark said, “The University of New England is fully committed to this community project, including the procurement and installation of the methane emissions measurement technology. We look forward to working with Angus Australia and its members to support understanding and uptake of R&D results.”

Source: Angus Australia