New beef genetics programme to deliver cows with smaller environmental hoof-prints

The Government is backing a genetics programme to lower the beef sector’s greenhouse gas emissions by delivering cows with a smaller environmental hoof-print, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

Informing New Zealand Beef is a seven-year partnership with Beef + Lamb New Zealand that is expected to result in more efficient cows within the next 25 years. The programme is targeting a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of product produced.

“The cows most suited to New Zealand’s production systems will be moderate in size, but still highly productive. Moderate sized cows which require less feed will help to lower the impact on soils and produce less methane,” Damien O’Connor said.

“To date we’ve relied on an Australian beef genetics framework, but the time is right to create our own programme tailored to New Zealand conditions.”

The Ministry for Primary Industries’  insemination is contributing $6.68 million to the $16.7 million programme, which aims to create a competitive advantage for New Zealand beef.

“More than 20 years ago our livestock industry developed New Zealand specific dairy and sheep genetics programmes, and this has led to exponential gains in productivity.

“The genetic gain for beef has lagged behind the other livestock industries, so breeding cattle specifically for New Zealand conditions will give the beef industry the same opportunity to excel.”

The new genetics programme will use Artificial Insemination and genomic selection to identify the bulls with the best genetic markers earlier in their life, and with greater accuracy.

Farmers will be provided with tools to capture data and inform breeding decisions, with training available throughout the programme to ensure the tools developed are fit for purpose and used widely in the industry.

“The environmental focus of this programme in particular complements our Fit for a Better World: Accelerating Our Economic Potential Roadmap. The roadmap sits behind every action we take in the food and fibre sector – whether it’s creating new high value products, research and innovation, new environmental initiatives, or growing the skills and capability of our people.

“Soon farmers will be able to breed herds according to the landscape they are in, whether it’s flat land or hill country.”

Industry modelling shows introducing a beef genetics programme specific to New Zealand could increase profit by $460 million over a 25-year period.

As the Government looks to all sectors to pull their weight with the Emissions Reduction Plan, this project forms an important component of the primary industries’ response to climate change, Damien O’Connor said.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture 

Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog