Meet Australian cattle & sheep farmers, discover 100 research projects and learn more about what is important to the sustainability of the industry
Target 100 is made up of 100 active research, development and extension projects that focus on animal welfare and environmental sustainability within the context of profitable farming systems. Target 100 projects are led by cutting edge research groups including universities, the CSIRO, and government departments and agencies.
There are 100 active initiatives at any one time on Target 100. As one project is completed, another projected is added. View the results of all competed projects here.
A group of studies were undertaken to permit the registration of a novel, non-injectable formulation of meloxicam (an non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to relieve the pain associated with surgical husbandry procedures in cattle.
Troy Laboratories has developed a gel formulation that allows rapid absorption of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, meloxicam, via the mouth of cattle. Farmers will be able to source the gel formulation through their veterinarians. Meloxicam was previously only available in the form of an injection, which presented operator-safety, carcase-quality and welfare issues. Read the final report here or a basic overview here.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available at http://www.mla.com.au/Research-and-development
All primary industries use energy and water in their operations. And all produce greenhouse gas emissions to a greater or lesser degree. To provide an accurate and credible view of the environmental impact of beef and lamb production all processes from the paddock to the plate can be assessed. This information allows the industry to work towards further limiting its environmental impact.
The Farm300 project seeks to provide an integrated, coordinated and collaborative platform for achieving effective on farm practice change and impact of collective industry and government investment. In conjunction with program partners (AWI, GRDC, DA, AFI, CCA, SCA, Landmark and Ag Institute Australia), the program will enable producers to build knowledge and skills to adapt and improve management capability. Critical to this approach is to foster and maintain a network of deliverers who are equipped to support producers to identify opportunities within their business that will enable production efficiencies to be gained, adaptation of management practices and a subsequent reduction in GHG emissions. The program will run from June 2013 to May 2015 and will include a mix of communication activities, workshops and one to one extension to support practice change.
The project will up-skill at least 100 advisors to be able to provide advise on greenhouse gas emissions management and participation in the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), to producers. Further, 25 advisors will coach 300 producers to improve their awareness and skills in the area of emisisons managment and participation in the CFI.
This project is developing an Australian Agriculture Life Cycle Inventory for use in Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs). LCAs assess the impact of all aspects of production of a food or fibre. The inventory will be based on sound data that has been collected with a standard methodology, is peer reviewed, is transparent and from well documented sources. The project will support a better informed business and policy environment for Australian agriculture and ensure LCA studies conducted by third parties on the beef and lamb industry are based on fair and reasonable data.
This report, the first of three to be presented for the project, covers methodological issues related to greenhouse gas estimation at the industry level, energy usage, a review of vegetation management regulations, and a review of the literature on greenhouse gas emissions and water use for red meat and alternative protein sources. Read the report here.
The livestock industry produces approximately 10 per cent of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions. Most of these emissions come from methane which is produced by the natural digestion process of cattle and sheep.
This project aims to reduce methane emissions by identifying the active ingredients in grape marc, a by-product from wine making, that are responsible for reducing livestock emissions. Tannins in the grape marc are believed to be the active ingredient. The project will study tannin chemistry and mechanisms to try and unlock the potential use of grape marc and other tannin-rich food sources as a supplement for reducing livestock emissions.
All primary industries face issues arising from climate variability. There is a clear need to ensure research into climate variability is well coordinated and effective.
The Climate Change Research Strategy for Primary Industries (CCRSPI) is a partnership of primary industry bodies focused on identifying, coordinating and communicating key climate change related research needs and priorities. CCRSPI encourages climate change research, development and extension that assists farmers, communities, regions and government to effectively prepare for climate variability.
Samples of soil are being taken in rangelands under different management regimes to try and understand the impacts of fire, stocking rates and pasture types on soil carbon stocks.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available at www.mla.com.au/research and development.
Cattle ticks transmit organisms that cause tick fever, which is a serious blood parasite disease of cattle. The disease can be lethal to susceptible animals. Others may suffer severe loss of condition. Cattle ticks remain a major impost on profitable beef production in tick zones.
Research conducted by the Beef Cooperative Research Centre (2005-2012) included a large cattle tick research program. Building on this work, this project will undertake cattle vaccination studies of the leading vaccine candidates in live cattle to enable licensing of the intellectual property for commercial development and delivery.
The cattle and sheep industry requires technology to quickly and accurately measure methane produced in the stomachs of a large number of individual animals. This will enable researchers and farmers to validate strategies to cut methane from grazing sheep and cattle. It is desirable to measure gas emissions in a way that doesn't significantly disturb or impede the animals in their natural grazing environment.
A small capsule, incorporating gas sensors and a wireless technology, was developed under the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (2008–2012) to measure methane concentrations in the stomach of livestock. This project will validate the use of the capsule to determine the amount of methane produced by an animal when given different feed. Measurement of methane yield and concentration will allow emissions intensity, total emissions and efficiency of rumen fermentation to be studied.
Result: The Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program involved 43 research projects. As a result a total of 190 articles, science papers and conference presentations were generated. Field days were also held at four demonstration sites across Australia.
Accurately measuring methane is critical to devise strategies to cut methane emissions from livestock. To date no commercial methane gas sensor has been customised for optimum sensing of the gas in farming environments.
This project aims to develop polymeric and/or nanomaterial to improve methane gas measurement. The goal is to develop membranes that allow sensing systems to better identify specific gases. This project is being undertaken in collaboration with CSIRO research aimed at measuring methane in the stomachs of livestock.
Result: Excellent progress was made on developing an instrument to measure methane and a patent has been applied for. Testing of the device has been undertaken and relationships between methane concentration in the rumen and CO2 production have been developed but require further validation.
Precisely measuring methane emitted by cattle and sheep grazing in the paddock will help scientists in their research to reduce methane produced by cattle and sheep. It will also help verify mitigation claims under the Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative.
This project aims to evaluate and enhance the capability of GreenFeed Emission Monitoring (GEM) units to measure daily methane emissions of grazing sheep and cattle. The goal is to develop GEM units that deliver a recognised means of measuring emissions from grazing sheep and cattle.
Result: Early results, which still require considerable confirmation, suggest that there are variations in the methane output between animals and that it is a heritable trait which means sires that produce less methane can be identified. Up to a 24% difference between high and low methane emitters has been observed in beef cattle sires. These very early results require testing of more animals to generate reliable data that could be used in breeding programs. The challenge in identifying low methane sires is how breeders can effectively measure it.Scientists are now investigating if reduced methane intensity is positively associated with other measurable, and hopefully routinely measured, traits such as liveweight gain. Further, if such associations are able to be predicted using advanced genetic ’fingerprinting’ technologies, then this paves the way for rapid progress. More information can be found at: www.mla.com.au/files/b6dc5ae0-68de-48e3-8954-9da0009bfda7/GHG-outcomes.pdf
Australian research has identified that there is natural variation between different breeds of cattle in how much methane they produce and in their feed intake. This offers the opportunity to breed cattle that naturally produce lower methane emissions.
This project will fill two major research gaps by seeking to determine how much underlying genetic variation is present, the heritability and genetic associations with other production traits and developing a way to incorporate a methane index in beef selection and breeding schemes.
Result: Measurements from an open-path laser, an instrument used to measure methane emissions from animals in a paddock, have now been made on three properties; one in central Queensland (Belmont Research Station), one in Northern Queensland (Lansdown Research Station) and one in the Northern Territory (Douglas Daly Research Station). A further deployment is planned in the Northern Territory.Following on from studies feeding tropical legumes to cattle to measure methane emissions, a wider range of tropical legumes have been screened using laboratory techniques. This data will be used to select legume species that appear to reduce methane emissions for more intensive animal work. Initial results from the project have been promising. More information can be found at: www.mla.com.au/files/fc376ff5-25fc-4873-9c8f-9da0009d1411/Mitigation-of-methane-Nth-beef.pdf
Result: Fifteen ‘respiration booths’ were designed, manufactured and safety-tested for use in the field. A standardised overnight fast and feeding protocol was established to enable multiple groups of sheep to be measured in succession during the day. The ‘booth method’ was used to measure the short-term methane production of 1500 sheep from the Central Test Sire Evaluation and Information Nucleus Flocks in NSW and Western Australia (WA) and ranked individual sheep according to whether they were low or high methane emitters. Two hundred sheep in NSW and 100 sheep in WA have been rescreened and classified as high or low emitters.A selection of the most extreme short-term methane emitters have been tested in 24-hour respiration booths in NSW and WA to validate their 24-hour methane production. These ‘extreme’ animals will be used in more intense, physiological and rumen microbial ecology studies to investigate the biology underpinning the differences in methane emissions. More information can be found at: www.mla.com.au/files/f40f9e99-e745-4e09-9c3c-9da0009c3aa5/Low-methane-emitting-sheep.pdf
Dung beetles bury and consume cattle and sheep dung. In the process they put nutrients in the soil to help new grass grow. However, there is a 2-3 month gap in dung beetle activity across southern Australia in winter and early spring. At this time nutrients are not incorporated into the soil, meaning an important opportunity is missed to minimise dung pollution and enhance pasture growth in spring.
This project is importing two species of climate-matched dung beetles from France and Spain in preparation for release at targeted test sites in September, 2014. Further releases will occur in September, 2015 following a second project focussed on mass-rearing. It is hoped these beetles will fill the gap in dung beetle activity across higher rainfall areas in southern Australia, cutting dung pollution and increasing farm productivity.
This project is examining the potential of developing algae-based foods for reducing methane emissions from cattle in feedlots. A range of algae is being studied to identify those which may be trialled in future research.
Result: This project led to world leading science in understanding the biochemical and microbial processes that drive methane production in the rumen and understanding of which parts of the rumen ecosystem drive methane production and could be targets for mitigation therapies. The research identified the key role of fibre-related and planktonic phase bacteria in the production of methane.
This project is researching the suitability of using tea extracts, known as saponins and statins, as feed additives to cut livestock methane emissions. Scientists are supplementing the feed of livestock with the tea saponin extract and the yeast Monascus ruber to study the effectiveness of these products in reducing methane emissions from livestock.
Result: Molecular DNA-based microbial profiling techniques have been developed by the South Australian Research & Development Institute to investigate rumen microorganisms (fungi, archaea, bacteria and protozoa) involved in enteric fermentation and methane production. These tools are being used in collaborative projects investigating ruminant methane mitigation strategies, including dietary and genetic manipulation. The tools will aid knowledge of how rumen microorganisms can be manipulated to reduce methane emissions, while maintaining production efficiencies.
This project aims to determine if nitrate salts in supplement blocks can safely replace urea and deliver an effective dose to reduce the methane emissions of cattle consuming forages typical of northern Australia without negatively impacting on grazing distribution and the landscape. This project will demonstrate whether nitrate supplement blocks are a safe, effective and economically viable way for farmers to cut methane emissions from their stock.
Result: This project has developed rapid high throughput screening technologies which enable researchers to measure the effects of diverse methane mitigation strategies on rumen microbiota. These technologies can be further developed to provide information to farmers on the effectiveness of on-farm methane mitigation strategies.
This project is developing the science underpinning nitrate supplementation to assure this becomes a safe, sure and commercially attractive methane mitigation technology by June, 2015. Intensive study of how nitrate supplements react in the stomachs of livestock will be undertaken to optimise their efficacy and safety. Impact of nitrate supplements on animal productivity will be assessed for cattle and sheep eating temperate pastures. Large demonstrations of nitrate feeding will be supported elsewhere for cattle.
Result: Representatives from over seven families of bioactive compounds have been screened for their effectiveness in controlling rumen microorganisms known as protozoa. Preparations are being made to determine comparative growth and methane production of cattle once protozoa have been removed. This project is hoped to prove the value of protozoal control (called defaunation) to boost cattle production while reducing methane emissions. More information can be found at: www.mla.com.au/files/5badb780-fb77-40dc-b46f-9da0009d8836/Strategies-for-methane-abatement.pdf
Previous research has indicated that feed supplements and particular pasture forages may reduce the amount of methane produced by grazing livestock. Further research is needed in this area.
This project is evaluating the potential of a range of different feed supplements and pasture forages, not used as mainstream feeds by the sheep and dairy industries, to cut methane produced by livestock. It is also investigating the pre-treatment techniques of cereal-based grains, and their subsequent integration into feeding systems for livestock in southern Australia.
Result: Three linear peptides have been sequenced, synthesised and evaluated in vitro. Abatement of methane emissions was up to 75% in vitro. This information is important for future development of either peptide based supplements or vaccines.
Under the Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (2008–2012) studies demonstrated that livestock that were fed Leucaena, a long-lived forage tree, produced fewer methane emissions. Further research into this area is required.
This project is measuring the greenhouse gas reduction of irrigated and non-irrigated Leucaena cattle feeding systems compared to native pastures on two commercial cattle properties in northern Australia. It’s also monitoring the microbial changes that underpin the reductions in methane using different levels of Leucaena.
Result: This project has resulted in the identification of a number of perennials and shrubs that reduce methane even though fermentability is maintained. A range of potent anti-methane compounds that naturally occur in Australian shrubs were identified. This ‘win-win’ situation is important for dryland sheep grazing systems that integrate perennial shrubs into the feedbase.
Earlier research has shown that particular plant species have the potential to reduce methane produced by livestock that eat those plants.
This project is measuring what happens when livestock are grazed on shrubs and pastures that potentially lower the amount of methane they produce.
Commercially-available pasture species with lower methane producing potential will be established.
Result: This project resulted in a detailed literature review and work plan. Work on screening environmental sources of methanotrophs is underway by a PhD candidate.
The University of Western Australia has identified a range of plants and plant products that have the potential to reduce methane produced by microbes in the stomach of livestock. However, the extent and the mechanism of this methane reduction are unknown.
This project is investigating the methane-reducing mechanism behind the plants and plant products with the most potential to lower emissions. Utilising an artificial livestock stomach, the project will determine the compounds and mechanisms that reduce methane production by testing these plants and plant products.
Result: There is good evidence from this work that there are functional alternative pathways for the consumption of hydrogen in situ and therefore possible methods of reducing methane.
This project is studying the genetic diversity of temperate pasture species that can reduce livestock methane and boost animal growth. Some pasture species have the potential for greater adoption because they reduce methane emissions directly and/or emissions intensity through improved efficiency of livestock production. Both field and laboratory experiments will be undertaken.
This project will produce best practice guidelines to minimise the impact of salmonella/inanition - otherwise known as ‘shy feeding’ - where sheep fail to eat when they move from pasture to a pre-export feedlot environment. The project has involved experiments to determine the incidence of ‘shy feeding’ at a pre-embarkation feedlot and aims to investigate practically implementable on-farm strategies that help sheep adjust to a new diet.
Result: Trevenna Farm, at Armidale in NSW, is being used to study first-cross lamb production on landscapes supporting low intensity and high intensity grazing. The site is 36ha, divided into 18 paddocks, nine with hills and nine on the flats. The site is being used to produce integrated reference data of all major carbon flows (soil, animal, plant, air) in current and potential future grazing systems for the purpose of: 1. picturing the relative scale of components of carbon cycle and contribution to net farm emissions for farmers, scientists and policy makers 2. Provide on-farm data for comparison with national greenhouse accounts 3. Evaluating mitigation strategies and their economic impact.
When natural disasters and other crises strike livestock are often impacted. Australia has considerable government, community and industry experience in addressing animal welfare emergencies, however there is no overarching national strategy.
This report recommends a number of areas for consideration and action by the Steering Committee in association with AHA Members to agree on an appropriate forum and mechanism for welfare crisis preparedness and response activities. It is recommended that an appropriate national forum for collaborative national action that includes all
relevant stakeholders is established to maintain the momentum in this area. Read the report here.
A review was commissioned to examine the latest research directions, findings and thinking in understanding the responses of cattle dealing with increased environmental heat load. The review concluded that the commonly observed characteristics of heat stress (reduction of feed intake, reduced appetite and lethargy) are the result of systemic endocrine, metabolic and inflammatory changes; and that altered rumen and gut health is most likely at the centre of high heat load morbidity and poor recovery after heat stress.
This project will investigate this hypothesis, and deliver new nutritional strategies for a forecast heat event. It will also investigate whether there is a need for separate strategies for the high risk periods of summer or for all of the summer period. The work program consists of four project areas; three projects test or gather evidence for the hypothesis that “Heat stress causes gut and liver damage with resultant metabolic and systemic and local inflammatory consequences”. Should this hypothesis prevail, the fourth project offers the opportunity to test nutritional interventions that act as gut ‘protectants’ or address the metabolic and/or inflammatory disturbances.
By unlocking the secrets of how micro-organisms work in the stomachs of livestock there is potential to reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle.
This project is using state-of-the-art software to study data previously collected on micro-organisms in the stomachs of sheep and cattle. Scientists will study the organisms associated with “low” and “high” methane emissions with a view to identifying critical control points to reduce livestock methane emissions.
Result: A range of targeted field days and other extension activities were conducted in south-west Victoria. Two service provider seminars targeting agricultural professionals including vets, agronomists and nutritionalists were conducted, followed by two field days for farmers and service providers. These field days focused on raising awareness of the broader greenhouse gas emissions issues on farm. A second round of field days was then conducted focussing more specifically on management and strategies to reduce methane emissions from sheep and cattle. The spectrometer was used to measure methane emissions from grazing livestock at four demonstration sites during the program.
Result: This demonstration site has been involved in two Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program projects: 1. Breeding low methane emitting sheep and understanding the underlying biology which looks at biological basis for the difference between high and low methane production in sheep 2. Understanding the mechanism behind the antimethanogenic bioactivity of Australian plants in grazing systems which is investigating a range of fodder plants for their potential to reduce methane emissions from livestock. The site is also being used to trial different ‘bioactive’ shrubs, aimed at reducing methane production when they are consumed by livestock.
Manure produced by cattle in feedlots can be collected, composted and sold as a valuable soil conditioner or can be used to sequester carbon or produce energy.
This project is now complete. Final reports can be obtained from www.mla.com.au/research and development.
Phosphorus is a key nutrient required for efficient pasture production and common and traditional legumes have a high requirement for phosphorous. There is the potential to reduce phosphorous inputs while maintaining productivity and sustainability of pasture production in southern Australia
New legumes offer the opportunity to have the same production and nutrition for pasture production while requiring less phosphorus inputs into the system. These are being trialled in a number of locations throughout NSW and Western Australia
Scientists have identified the key microbes in the stomachs of livestock that are responsible for producing methane, however how these microbes function is poorly understood.
This project aims to increase the understanding of the microbial populations in the stomachs of livestock using data produced in Australia and abroad. It is hoped the project will lead to the breeding of low methane animals.
Result: Fats and oils change the fermentation process in the rumen, producing more propionic acid and less methane, reducing emissions and increasing productivity. A number of feed supplements have been examined for their impact on methane emissions including canola and sunflower oils, grape marc (a wine by-product of grape skins and seeds), spent brewer’s grains, tannin extract (from black wattle) and marine algae (high oil content). Of these, dietary oil (3.5% methane reduction for every 1% increase in dietary oil) and grape marc (20% reduction of methane) have shown promising results and indicate further work to establish commercial potential and to define operating parameters.
Research has identified potential options to reduce methane production and also reduce intestinal worms through the use of perennial shrubs as feed for cattle and sheep.
Through the Future Farms Cooperative Research Centre the beef and lamb industry has been evaluating the potential of perennial shrubs suited to our environment to boost whole-farm profit, achieve better management of natural resources and provide practical options to adapt to climate variability. This project will allow farmers to incorporate a mix of Australian shrub species into the feedbase. Shrubs, such as saltbush, are included in the trial and the opportunity is not just to reduce methane and worms but also to provide shade and shelter for animals and improve soil health.
Result: Prickly acacia, a weed of national significance, significantly impacts on the grazing industry across northern Australia. A dieback phenomenon has been reported to occur in some locations where this woody weed exists. This project collected 150 fungal isolates from dieback-affected prickly acacia plants. The majority (70%) of these were found to mainly belong to the genus Botryosphaeria. The study indicated significant potential for harnessing some of these fungal isolates as bioherbicides to induce dieback symptoms in healthy prickly acacia plants. These preliminary studies have provided a firm platform for ongoing studies that seek to develop prickly acacia dieback into a management tool for use in the grazing industry.
These studies have provided a platform for further studies that seek to develop prickly acacia dieback into a management tool. Preliminary work has been combined with the dieback project and approach with Parkinsonia at UQ. Next steps are yet to be finalised. Read the report here.
Result: The project assessed the feasibility of application of urease inhibitor to cattle pens and manure stockpiles, as a strategy for reducing ammonia (NH3) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Urease inhibitor application to cattle pens was found to have a significant effect on urea content in manure but, even after treatment, retained urea was rapidly depleted within the first days after pen clearing and manure stockpiling. Urease inhibitor treatment could not be reliably linked to reduced NH3 emissions from manure stockpiles. Sustained retention of urea in the manure as it is removed, stockpiled and ultimately incorporated into agricultural soils remains an operational challenge, because of the transient effect of the urease inhibitor, and pen-access difficulties in wetter months. Additionally, cost-effectiveness of urease inhibitor application for mitigation of ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions seems doubtful, with treatment cost estimated at $38 per animal turned off.
The beef and lamb processing industry is installing covered anaerobic lagoons (CAL) at a fast rate due to carbon tax drivers. There are approximately 14 installed across Australia with about the same number likely in the next three years. Many are large capacity and produce sizeable volumes of combustible methane (biogas) and hydrogen sulfide. The regulation of biogas installations is primarily a State-based function, with varying approaches and regulations across the States. This poses compliance risks for meat processors installing such technologies since there are no industry-based guidelines or more general biogas guidelines applicable. This project will develop a manual that aims to give guidance on safety around biogas for meat processors.
This project is developing a manual to give guidance on safety around biogas for meat processors. These guidelines will be presented to various State authorities for acceptance as a sensible means of regulating biogas safety from wastewater technologies.
The sharing of information, knowledge and resources is vital to developing a sustainable and profitable northern beef industry in Australia.
The FutureBeef initiative aims to bring the latest research technologies and best management practice
knowledge, skills and training into the hands of northern beef producers. It does this through training workshops, producer demonstration sites,
field days, R&D projects, forums, facilitated producer groups, online seminars,
YouTube videos, newsletters and publications.
Further research is required on the greenhouse gas emissions produced by manure and effluent at Australian cattle feedlots.
This project is designed to answer a range of unresolved questions on greenhouse gas management for the beef lot-feeding industry, including data on emissions for Australian systems and validated emissions mitigations. One aim of the research is to provide the solid data and science that industry and stakeholders need to formulate effective and reasonable policy in relation to feedlot emissions.
This project is measuring greenhouse gas emissions from a feedlot pond and will provide the lotfeeding industry with the data required to assess both the contribution of ponds to emissions and the potential for use of methane harvested from ponds as an energy source.
This project measured greenhouse gas emissions from a feedlot pond and provided the lotfeeding industry with the data required to assess both the contribution of ponds to emissions and the potential for use of methane harvested from ponds as an energy source. During the cooler months the average daily rate of methane emission was 18 g/m2 surface area/d compared to 165 g/m2 surface area/d during the warmer months. The composition of biogas produced from the pond was predominantly methane (74%) with smaller amounts of carbon dioxide (24%), hydrogen sulphide and hydrogen. An economic evaluation was undertaken of utilising a covered anaerobic pond to collect the methane, which would then be used as a fuel source for either a boiler system or a combined heat and power system. Neither scenario was economically feasible for use at the study feedlot due to the large seasonal effect on methane production and the variability in feedstock supply to the pond. Read the report here.
The Australian cattle industry now has access to a range of bovine respiratory disease (BVD) vaccines for use in either the pre-feedlot situation or at entry to the feedlot. There are currently no scientific publications available, where controlled studies have been conducted in commercial feedlots and published in peer reviewed journals, to support the health and production effects of the BRD vaccines currently available in Australia.
This study is designed to separate the physiological and behavioural effects of backgrounding from the effects of vaccination and to evaluate them both separately and in combination. Backgrounding refers to the grouping and acclimatisation of animals prior to entry into the feedlot or intensive finishing system. The project will refine our knowledge of the effects of backgrounding with and without the use of vaccines, and will clarify the most appropriate use of BRD vaccines to optimise animal health outcomes and financial returns.
Result: The publication has been completed. This publication describes best-practice techniques for a number of husbandry practices used when managing sheep. It can help producers provide good health, welfare and management outcomes for their livestock. It was developed after wide expert consultation and is endorsed by the Sheepmeat Council of Australia.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available fromwww.mla.com.au/research and development
This project is using SmartTag technology to measure ewe and lamb behaviour during and immediately after birth. The results will help improve field-based measures for assessing the vigour of new-born lambs. The more active a lamb is at birth the more likely it is to survive. Studies have shown that lamb vigour, shown by behaviours such as the time it takes a lamb to stand and suckle, or bleat – is a trait that is able to be passed on genetically. If this stage of the project is successful, it is hoped that the technology can be developed further to apply it to larger-scale genetic improvement schemes, thereby lifting lamb survival rates.
Lamb vigour scores (LVSs) are usually assessed during tagging and measurement of the lamb within the first 12 to 18 hours of life and are based on a combination of subjective assessments of the degree of struggling and vocalisation, and the rate of the lamb's return back to the ewe. The trait has a low heritability and has been shown to be genetically associated with lamb survival to 3 days of life. However, it is unclear which behavioural elements of LVS are most important and at what point after birth is it best to assess. This study assessed individual elements of the LVS at intervals in the first 24 hrs post birth, in 236 lambs. Furthermore, a subset of ewes were fitted with SmartTag sensors in order to assess whether key pre-partum behaviours, that could be used to predict the birth, could be remotely assessed using wireless sensor technology. The objectives of the project were a) to develop improved field-based measures/protocols for the assessment of lamb vigour; and b) to develop prediction algorithms of lambing behaviour in ewes and neonatal lamb behaviour using a novel remote sensing measurement platform (Smart Tags) Sire variation was evident in bleat responses following restraint at 3 and 4 h post birth. Sire rankings were similar at 3 and 4 h post-birth and there was also some congruence with EBVs for time to bleat. The rankings were less consistent at 8 and 12 h post-birth, suggesting that the trait has some repeatability particularly early post-partum. The bleat response of lambs can be a simple, practical test to assess lamb vigour in the field. It should be carried out after the ewe and lamb have moved away from the birth site, and preferably before the lamb is 12 hours old. However, questions remain with respect to how best to estimate the age of a lamb in the field, once mother and lamb have moved away from the birthing site; and also the impact of stressful procedures such as tagging and birth weighing on the lamb's bleat response. Further research is recommended to address these questions. In terms of remote sensing, many challenges were encountered during the data collection phase of the experiment, however, clear evidence of changing behaviours was obtained. Unfortunately, within the time constraints of the project, we were unable to complete development of a birthing predictor. Further work is required to develop a true predictive algorithm, which should then undergo pilot testing prior to in-field validation. Read the report here.
This study is designed to separate the physiological and behavioural effects of backgrounding from the effects of vaccination and to evaluate them both separately and in combination. Backgrounding refers to the grouping and acclimatisation of animals prior to entry into the feedlot or intensive finishing system. The project will refine our knowledge of the effects of backgrounding with and without the use of vaccines, and will clarify the most appropriate use of BRD vaccines to optimise animal health outcomes and financial returns
Footrot, an infectious and contagious disease caused by bacteria, is an endemic disease in many of Australia's sheep-producing areas with an estimated annual cost to the sheep industry of $18 million. The disease causes suffering to sheep due to lameness, severe economic loss and disruption to normal farm operations.
This project will progress earlier work with the aim of developing a single vaccine to provide protection against all known variations of the bacteria that causes footrot in sheep.
Weeds are estimated to cost Australian farmers about $4 billion a year in control activities and lost agricultural production. Weeds reduce farm productivity by invading crops, smothering pastures and harming livestock in some instances. They aggressively compete for water, nutrients and sunlight, resulting in reduced crop yield and poor crop and pasture quality.
This project developed and applied a framework to prioritise biocontrol efforts using new agents against 79 weeds of significance to the grazing industries. The framework considered the current and potential impacts of the weeds versus prospects for biocontrol, assessments of feasibility of undertaking a biocontrol program that would yield host-specific agents, and the likelihood that agents would be successful in mitigating the impacts of the weeds in Australia. Future work has been developed with research agencies acorss Australia, regional NRM bodies and Land care and prodcuer groups. Funding is being sought. Read the report here.
The Agile Wallaby is considered a pest species by pastoralists in northern Australia, particularly in the Top End. Pastoralists claim that high density wallaby populations cause environmental degradation, significantly increase production costs (e.g. labour, fencing), and ultimately affect farm viability. The Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis) is protected by law.
This project is a scoping and feasibility study that will build a case for where R&D investment should be targeted, and establish the potential partnerships of key stakeholders with a vested interest in supporting development and implementation of a management plan for the Agile Wallaby.
Because extensive cattle grazing is the major land use in northern Australia, relatively small improvements in management of these lands could have major biodiversity benefits.
This project is seeking to assess if grazing intensity impacts on fauna (reptiles, skinks geckos etc) and the habitat of these and other species. The project will value-add to the Wambiana grazing trial and develop previous, shorter-term biodiversity studies by the CSIRO.
A standardised approach to euthanasia of sick and injured feedlot cattle is needed. This will increase confidence and competence of feedlot staff in this sometimes difficult and sensitive area, and ensure that appropriate animal welfare practice is maintained at all times across the industry.
This project will develop resource and training materials to assist decision-making on timely and appropriate euthanasia of sick and injured feedlot cattle. Written and illustrated reference material will be produced, detailing criteria and options for euthanasia of feedlot cattle. The material will be user-friendly and suitable for use by feedlot livestock staff, and will include the careful use of pictorial guidance.
Saltbush is an Australian native plant that has great potential as food for livestock. Saltbush, and in particular old man saltbush, is widely used for grazing in drier agricultural regions.
This project identified 12 elite lines of Old Man Saltbush which have 8 times more biomass, 15% higher digestibility and double the voluntary intake by sheep. Read the report here.
Bellyache bush, Jatropha gossypiifolia, is a serious and expanding weed of northern Queensland. It invades grazing land, particularly riparian zones, forming dense thickets that reduce pasture and cattle productivity. All parts of the plant, especially the seeds, are toxic and there have been several instances where the death of grazing animals has been attributed to bellyache bush. There have been increasing community requests for recommencement of a biocontrol program on bellyache bush, which is now spreading to isolated regions of Cape York, the Gulf of Carpentaria, Lake Eyre Basin, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Having an effective biocontrol agent is considered necessary to halt its spread and reduce its impact.
There are a limited number of promising biocontrol agents for bellyache bush with the best candidate being the Jatropha rust (Phakopsora jatrophicola). CABI (UK) is conducting screening studies on the pathogenicity, and preliminary host specificity testing of one of the rust strains from Mexico. This project will provide funding to expand the CABI host specificity testing to include additional bellyache bush populations (6 varieties) as well as multiple Jatropha rust stains (from four countries) to ensure we identify the optimal strain(s).
Result: The major issues affecting data quality in each bioregion were identified. Options for overcoming these issues during the processing of satellite images have been identified). The building of greater feedback between end-users and fire scar mappers in particular should have a number of benefits for fire scar accuracy across all regions. The fire season should see an improved reliability of the NAFI website maps through: 1. increased time allocated to Queensland MODIS fire scar mapping, 2. increased feedback between end users and fire mappers - the mechanisms for this are already being implemented, 3. an improved fire mapping procedure that better incorporates hotspot and other data, 4. drawing on an additional local downlink site for hotspots in Townsville, 5. additional tools on the NAFI website to help users employ the fire scar data more effectively in fire management.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available from www.mla.com.au/research and development.
This project is developing and piloting modular training programs for the management of Australian livestock overseas, aligning with the industry’s standard operating procedures and Australian Government guidelines. The main target audience of this program will be Animal Welfare Officers stationed in export markets.
A modular training package is now being utilised by the Livestock Export Program to train in market personnel.
There is a a gap in dung beetle activity in early spring across southern Australia. Two new speciese of Dung Beetles were imported from Europe. The beetles have been acclimatised to southern hemisphere conditions (in the laboratory) and are now ready to be released in the field.
This project is to provide support for the management of three sites in South Australia to ensure, as far as possible, the establishment of resident populations of the beetles in the field and contribution to an ongoing-rearing plan that enables beetles from the South Australian sites to be redistributed around Australia.
Perennials, plants that live for more than two years, can cope with declining and variable rainfall through deep roots that capture and use water at depth. Perennials are also able to remove excess water which could drain and contribute to salinity. There is potential to identify and develop new perennial plants and associated farming systems that create new feed sources for livestock in Australia's drying and variable climate.
Five new varieties of common perennial plants have been identified. Commercial agreements are in place to make these available to red meat producers over the next five years.
Several observational studies have found perinatal calf loss is a major contributor to decreased reproductive efficiency in northern beef herds.
This project looks at the work required to develop a remote calving alert device for beef cattle. The aim is to to build and evaluate prototype devices under controlled laboratory conditions before selecting the most appropriate and efficient device to test under field conditions.
Result: The Climate Clever Beef project worked with property owners to analyse the whole or part of their business and identify management options to improve outcomes for their business resilience in terms of productivity, profitability, land condition, greenhouse gas emissions and climate change risk. A new phase of the program is trialling and demonstrating practices that can reduce methane emissions from cattle and increase sequestration of carbon in soil and vegetation in six northern grazing regions.
Apart from being potential carriers of exotic diseases, feral pigs pollute water sources, damage pastures, kill newborn lambs and damage livestock farmers’ fences.
Researchers have developed PIGOUT® Econobaits, based on the pesticide known as 1080, and another more welfare and environmentally friendly toxin. The new baits potentially lower the cost of feral pig control for farmers. The cheaper bite-sized PIGOUT® baits require a stable formulation, before seeking regulatory registration.
These baits, can be used in the HogHopper™, a light-weight, aluminium, box-shaped feeder, with lift doors on either side that harnesses the pigs’ natural feeding behaviour to gain access to the bait but which prevents non-targets accessing bait.
In assessing and reporting greenhouse gas emissions the Australian beef and lamb processing industry must meet the requirements of the Australian Government's National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme.
The National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Red Meat Processing Industry Guidelines are now available here.
Result: This research found that covered ponds are capable of efficient waste water decomposition and biogas production. A key recommendation from the research is that fat removal systems are a prime requirement for effective anaerobic pond operation, both in covered and uncovered situations. Biogas modelling also indicated that the potential production of biogas can be significantly influenced by the configuration and operation of the ponds and other factors. Combined, these factors can dramatically influence the feasibility of bioenergy produced from the site with the quantity of biogas potentially varying tenfold.
This project will conduct whole farm systems analysis of a range of nitrogen, carbon and energy efficiency and greenhouse gas abatement strategies for the dairy, sheep and southern beef industries.
The major outcome of this project is to increase the uptake of a range of farming systems that reduce emissions intensity and increase the development of Carbon Farming Initiative offset methods. This will be done by provided industry and policy with peer reviewed information and the knowledge to make informed decisions about how to incorporate nitrogen, carbon and energy efficiency options into profitable farm practices.
Following the floods of early 2011 farmers in Queensland have had to rebuild fences. Agforce, the state farming body has provided advice on fencing strategies to better manage land types for production and environmental benefits. The industry will continue to focus on re-thinking property layout and management to improve environmental and production outcomes.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available from www.mla.com.au/research and development
Grass seed infestation of lamb carcases, where seeds penetrate the animal’s body while it is grazing, is a significant issue for the Australian prime lamb industry, particularly lamb processors. During high risk periods, it is estimated up to 60 per cent of carcases required trimming. The cost of seed to processor businesses ranged from $10 - $20 per carcase and up to $30 for heavily infested carcases.
The National Grass Seed Action Program aims to provide those involved in the lamb industry with knowledge, skills, resources and targeted information to reduce grass seed infestation incidence to less than five per cent at processing facilities that actively engage in the program by 2015. The project will involve a series of workshops for farmers in high risk areas and develop a nationally consistent feedback report to provide information to farmers on the grass seed infestation status of their lambs.
High quality pasture is inextricably linked to good growth rates for livestock feeding on it.
This project is seeking to build on advances in pasture legume breeding and agronomy to expand the area where new, hard-seed varieties of legumes can be sown, namely in the drier regions of Western Australia and NSW and the moister conditions of central and southern NSW. The project will also measure animal performance on the summer-sown legumes, develop optimal grazing strategies and evaluate the option of grazing serradella pods as an alternative to summer feeding in Western Australia.
The Wambiana grazing trial, south-east of Charters Towers, began in 1997. The findings from this trial have been critical in demonstrating the linkages between moderate stocking, good land condition, reduced runoff and erosion, reduced risk, and increased productivity and profitability.However, the first research phase was unable to provide strong evidence that flexible stocking rate strategies or rotational wet season spelling can cost-effectively improve carrying capacity or land condition at a paddock scale.
Phase 2 results indicated that flexible stocking with or without spelling is no more profitable than fixed stocking at long term carrying capacity. It also appears to have no extra benefit in terms of pasture condition relative to the latter, simpler strategies. The project provided valuable learning with adaptive management in a variable climate. These practical learning experiences, trial data and input from the landholders over the last 17 years have allowed development of robust guidelines and rules of thumb. A next stage is underway to refine these guidelines with bioeconomic modelling and package for delivery.
A particular species of red seaweed macroalgae that improves fermentation characteristics and has powerful methane reducing properties. This seaweed is also rich in minerals, vitamins, proteins and polysaccharides.
A commercialisation plan is being developed to help guide the introduction of the seaweed into the Australian livestock feed market
In 2010-2011 a farmer driven network in Victoria's Mallee country conducted work on rotational cereal grazing. This work investigated the precision grazing practices in extensive cropping farms and provided the participating Mallee farmers with the skills and techniques to strategically graze sheep in their cereal farming. However, this work led to the realisation that further research was required.
This project refined and enhanced the precision management of sheep under rotational grazing with solar powered electric fencing and demonstrated that lamb producers can lift productivity and profitability by effectively utilising the dry matter production of fodder specific cultivars such as Moby barley and Subzero Brassica. Read the report here.
The most practical ways to permanently reduce methane emissions from ruminants are to breed animals with have lower methane emissions without compromising productivity. This is possible because there is evidence that methane emissions and rumen function are heritable.
The work in this project will provide the means by which the sheep industry can breed low methane emitting sheep, and participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative if they choose to do so.
Reward from the relief of pain leads to associative learning by animals. If sheep and cattle can readily learn to self-medicate on feed containing non-addictive medication it could provide an opportunity for animals to provide themselves with extended pain relief, by repeated self-dosing, following necessary husbandry procedures.
This project is investigating training animals to self-administer pain relief drugs by eating diets containing medicine. This project will look at whether self-medication is feasible for on-farm delivery of analgesics for pain relief and whether self-medication can be used as an indicator of pain in sheep and cattle.
Resting pasture land in the wet season is a key recommendation for improved grazing management in northern Australia to improve soil and groundcover and reduce the risk of erosion and downstream impacts on water quality. However, there is little reliable and relevant information to guide the design of cost-effective and practical regimes of wet season spelling.
This project will measure the impact of different spelling strategies on groundcover and productivity. The improved understanding and predictability of wet season spelling that emerges will be used to design more reliable and cost-effective spelling options for producers.
A small percentage of sheep won’t eat when they move from pasture to a pre-export feedlot environment, leading to on-board mortalities. This condition is known as salmonella/inanition or colloquially called 'shy feeding'.
This project is producing best practice guidelines to minimise the impact of ‘shy feeding’. The project has involved experiments to determine the incidence of ‘shy feeding’ at a pre-embarkation feedlot, including electronically tracking and monitoring approximately 9,000 sheep. The project is investigating practically implementable on-farm strategies that help sheep adjust to a new diet in the feedlot, thereby further reducing on-board mortalities.
Cyanobacteria are bacteria that live in the water and can manufacture their own food. In semi-arid and arid landscapes vegetative cover is generally sparse and biological soil crust – which is made up of Cyanobacteria, mosses and lichen is important to stabilise the surface of soil, promote moisture retention and fix atmospheric nitrogen. A project is underway to fill the knowledge gap around the importance of this system on soil health and groundcover.
Sown pasture rundown in grass-only pastures reduces production by approximately 50% and will cost beef producers in northern Australia >$17 billion at the farm gate over the next 30 years. This rundown is caused by a decline in soil available nitrogen.
This project will increase the productivity of ageing sown grass pastures, primarily in southern and central Queensland, through an extension program to support landholders to assess and implement on-farm options to improve pasture productivity. A coordinated R&D program to improve the reliability and performance of legumes in grass pastures will also be undertaken.
The cattle and sheep industry and CSIRO are jointly undertaking a study to identify alternative pathways for sustainable development of the north Australian beef industry. The central focus of the study is to quantify the scope for increases in beef productivity, the impacts on land and water resources and the resultant emissions of greenhouse gases. The project outcomes will identify research and development needs to benefit the industry for the next 10 to 20 years.
Rabbits have been undermining livestock farmers’ environmental and economic sustainability since soon after European settlement. Today, rabbits are found all over Australia across a range of environments, infest more than 530 million hectares of land and cause $206 million in agricultural production losses each year. Biological controls, such as myxomatosis and rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD), have helped control rabbit numbers, however climatic factors and growing genetic resistance to RHD have driven the need for more-effective tools.
The Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease (RHD) Boost Project expects to deliver a new virus strain in about 2017. It is anticipated that it will perform better in the more temperate zones, where the present strain has had limited success or failed to establish at all. The RHD Boost will be released to rabbits via baits (most likely carrots) at strategic locations.
Result: The study assessed the how reduced stocking and rotational wet season spelling affected ground cover, pasture condition, runoff and sediment yield. This study showed that grazing land management in rangelands potentially reduces the impacts on downstream ecosystems. However, because of the multiple erosion sources, it can take more than 10 years for these changes to be detected at the end of the catchment.
Fear of humans is a source of stress for sheep in feedlots. Best practice is required from stockpersons when moving and handling sheep.
This pilot project with a limited number of animals aimed to determine the effects of stock-handling training in three sheep feedlots on animal productivity, welfare and behaviour as well as the effects on the stockperson behaviour, physiological stress and attitudes. Sheep productivity increased by 33% and 34% at two of the feedlots and sheep stress, behaviour and ease of handling, as well as the stockperson’s physiological stress improved after stock-handling training at all three feedlots. Although these improvements were variable within and across the feedlots, the promising nature of the results from this preliminary study strongly suggest that there are positive animal and human benefits of stockperson training and thus further research is required to fully understand the impact that stockperson training can have on the animals and the stockpeople. Read the report here.
A practical way to adapt to climate change and reduce methane emissions is to modify the forage base and breed sheep that are more resilient to the environment and produce less methane.
Result: This project, aimed at better understanding the impact of Australian beef and lamb production on water use, concluded that the substantial variability in water footprint between systems indicates that generalisations about livestock and livestock products should be avoided. However, many low input, predominantly non-irrigated, pasture-based livestock production systems have little impact on freshwater resources from consumptive water use and the livestock have a water footprint similar to many broad-acre cereals.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available at www.mla.com.au/research and development
Remote camera monitoring of livestock, particularly on large properties, offers major welfare, cost and time benefits for farmers.
The Richmond Producer Demonstration Site in northern Queensland is demonstrating a range of benefits from walk-over-weighing and remote camera monitoring of cattle. The remote monitoring camera, focused on a water trough, has reduced labour needs and vehicle usage by reducing the property manager’s frequency of ‘water runs’ to the paddock. Similarly, a camera monitoring pasture condition throughout the trial has enabled photos to be matched to other data, allowing farmers to identify trigger points for making key management decisions.
Waste streams from rendering and blood processing contain environmental pollutants which have to be removed by effluent treatment. They also contain protein, other solids and fat which represent product losses. Losses from abattoir rendering plants that use continuous wet-rendering (low temperature rendering) systems are about $2.5 million per year. The project will provide benchmarks of the composition of waste streams and to identify strategies to reduce the contribution of waste streams to environmental loads and product losses.
Lamb survival is a key welfare and economic issue for sheep farmers. The two most ‘at risk’ phases of reduced immunity are in the infant and elderly. These two periods of reduced immune function coincide with periods of increased mortality in sheep. There is a need to better understand the potential link between the immunity strength of the lamb and its likelihood of survival.
This project will determine the components or measures of the immune system that are related to lamb and weaner mortality, or indicators of lamb and weaner mortality, and also how these components of the immune system can be boosted by nutritional interventions.
A project to independently measure the environmental performance of the processing industry in order to identify areas for improvement and where improvement has been made. At least 15 medium to large abattoirs are included in the audit every 3-5 years. A new review started in 2013.
This project is now complete. Final reports can be found at www.mla.com.au/research and development
A study has been undertaken to provide a more comprehensive robust analysis of the trend in environmental impacts of Australian beef production than what is available to date.
This project is now complete. The study will aim to quantify the trend in greenhouse gas emissions, water use and energy use intensity (i.e. impacts per kilogram of beef produced) over the 30 years from 1981-2010 for the Australian beef industry by applying a life cycle assessment approach with a ‘cradle-to-farm gate’ boundary. Please see here for more information.
There is a clear demand in the beef industry for an alternative to castration. A suitable technology is not presently available that is practical and effective for use in extensive beef systems.
A trial is underway to test and study the suppression of testicular growth in young bulls treated with the immunocontraceptive vaccine GonaConTM. The outcome will be information that will inform decisions on whether GonaConTM has commercial potential as an alternative to castration in bulls.
Abattoirs use large amounts of water to ensure high food safety standards. Currently less than 2% of the used water is being recycled, mainly due to regulatory restrictions. A number of initiatives to reduce water consumption and increase water reuse are being identified and initiated and regulatory approval will be sought. An example is trialling dry cleaning and alternative sterilisation methods to reduce water consumption.
This project is now complete. Final reports can be found at www.mla.com.au/research and development.
The difficulty and expense of sourcing labour on northern pastoral leases has led to poor labour efficiency, which has been identified as one of the significant threats to the economic sustainability of northern cattle businesses. Investigating strategies to improve the efficiency of available labour sources is priority for the industry. Monitoring and maintaining water availability to livestock is one of the most regular and time consuming tasks in extensive cattle enterprises. Monitoring and maintaining water availability to livestock is one of the most regular and time consuming tasks in extensive cattle enterprises.
This PDS will demonstrate the effective use of remote monitoring in the Kimberley and Pilbara by demonstrating the financial benefits of installing remote monitoring systems and to identify any issues preventing adoption in the region. Technology exists that utilises telemetry to monitor remote water points and transmit data back to a central location. The use of telemetry technology to monitor water points is one of the best opportunities to rapidly improve
labour efficiency. The installation of such a system can reduce the labour required to ensure that water is available to livestock by 50 to 75%.
Learning opportunities are vitally important to allow farmers to implement best practice on their properties. Those opportunities must be educational and informative to encourage farmers to expand their current expertise and learn new skills.
EDGEnetwork® offers practical learning opportunities to help farmers gain knowledge and develop skills necessary to improve their livestock enterprises, including natural resource management. EDGEnetwork® sessions are delivered through workshops, farm walks, demonstrations, group discussions and projects. This pathway enables farmers to apply business practices and principles, as well as outcomes from industry research and development, directly on their farms.
Cattle with horns can be difficult to handle, injure other animals and stock handlers and require dehorning.
The Lakefield and Avago Station Producer Demonstration Sites in the Northern Territory are demonstrating how a genetic test can help to selectively breed cattle without horns, otherwise known as polled cattle. The sites are also demonstrating best practice fixed time artificial insemination, which means high quality genetics can be introduced into breeding herds that roam over vast expanses of Australia’s outback.
On-farm trials of research and development are critical to achieving better environmental outcomes and more profitable farming.
Targeted research at 6 proof sites, associated with component research at over 50 sites contributed to the development of over 570 resources and a number of training packages. The resources can be accessed at www.evergraze.com.au. As a result, at least 2,300 farmers have changed their practices, resulting in a net benefit to industry of over $300m. This project was a finalist in the 2014 Eureka Awards for Sustainable Agriculture.
During 2013 prototype devices wer tested for castration and tail docking. The aim was to produce a device that painlessly castrates lambs and calves using the rubber ring method. A device was devloped that successfully castrated lambs and effectively delivered local anaesthetic that reduced or eliminated the pain of castration over 4 hours – by which time the scrotal nerves are dead.
This project will allow research teams to continue to engineer and carry out trials that advance our knowledge behind the principles of the device.This project will help to refine the device so that it can be manufactured and suitable for large scale field studies and potentially tail docking.
On-farm trials of research and development are critical to achieving better environmental outcomes and more profitable farming. EverGraze is a national research, development and extension project that aims to design, test and implement farming systems based on perennials, plants that live for more than two years. Providing farmers will regionally relevant information is critical if they are to adopt it on their farm.
At the site, EverGraze is studying the use of perennial pasture systems in a region where annual crops and pastures are the norm. Whole farm system modelling will explore the key question of what combinations of plants, animals, and enterprises, overlaid by annual management, can increase profit, address natural resource management and minimise uncertainty of production and profit in each region.
On-farm research and subsequent modelling have identified that:
Adding 25% perennials to farm systems on the south coast of WA will give the highest gross margins
Deep rooted summer active perennials (kikuyu, lucerne & chicory) extend the growing season and reduce the need for supplementary feeding in summer and autumn compared with annual based pasture systems in the south coast of WA
Kikuyu, chicory and panic persist through dry seasons
Chicory and lucerne extend the growing season and provide high quality feed in a lamb finishing system
As the cattle standards and guideline move into law cattle above 6 months of age will require pain relief when castrated. However establishing best practice is difficult because it is difficult to assess pain accurately in Bos indicus cattle. Measures of pain including quantitative and qualitative behavioural scoring and serum cortisol, liveweight changes, pedometry and nociceptive threshold testing have been studied but have not proven to be reliable and consistent.
This project will attempt to develop a validated pain assessment method using the electroencephalogram (EEG) of Bos indicus cattle during surgical castration. The results should enable a better understanding of the pain pathways in this species and how best to provide pain relief for castration.
A site at Hamilton is studying the effect of different pasture and animal systems on pasture and animal production, lamb survival and water use. Whole farm system modelling is exploring the key question of appropriate combinations of plants, animals, and enterprises, overlaid by annual management, can increase profit, address natural resource management and minimise uncertainty of production and profit in each region. The test site is located at Hamilton. This site is also examining the use of hedgerows as a means to increase lamb survival.
Feedlots are home to not only cattle but also the pesky fly. The house fly is a pest of agricultural and public health importance that causes irritation, spoils food and spreads disease.The fly is able to breed and develop in many substances, including manure in cattle feedlots. To date the most prevalent fly control strategy pursued in feedlots has involved chemical control, however flies have developed resistance to many of the available insecticides.
Previous research into fly control included using a fungus that attaches itself to flies and then kills them.
It is hoped that through further research into the formulation of the fungal spores and application strategies, there is potential for the development of a commercially viable environmentally–friendly insecticide for use in cattle feedlots and possibly other intensive livestock.
Laboratory research will focus on improving and testing both the bait and spray formulations through optimising the spore viability and attractiveness of the formulations to flies.
On-farm trials of research and development are critical to achieving better environmental outcomes and more profitable farming.EverGraze is a national research, development and extension project that aims to design, test and implement farming systems based on perennials, plants that live for more than two years.
Key findings include:
Native pastures can form the basis of a successful store lamb production system with good weaning weights and acceptable reproductive performance. Higher stocking rates achieved through the use of higher fertiliser applications will enable greater per hectare production. However the extra costs associated with these higher fertiliser applications are not offset in the first two years of capital application and are only justified under an extended period of higher production and maintenance fertiliser rates. At low stocking rates and when herbage mass is not limiting, there is no production benefit associated with rotational grazing. Further information can be obtained here.
Wet and muddy pen conditions add to the negative perception of feedlots, and there is a lack of scientifically defensible evidence to either support or counter such claims.
This project will provide objective, science-based information on whether ‘cattle preference for the feedlot declines as muddy conditions increase’. This research will provide industry with a valuable assessment of what cattle perceive as ‘acceptable’ pen conditions.
This project seeks to identify inorganic waste streams being generated by meat processors and how these waste streams can be recycled and minimised with the greatest return on investment.
Result: This toolkit is now available. It has been produced to support land managers and facilitators, extension officers and Natural Resource Management groups involved in the management of grazing lands and biodiversity conservation within the Brigalow Belt and Mulga Lands of Southern Queensland. It aims to provide capacity for land managers to build on existing knowledge of sustainable grazing land management, encourage enthusiasm for caring about biodiversity on properties and provide some knowledge and insights on the plants and animals that cohabit with grazing stock in healthy grazing lands.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available from www.mla.com.au/research and development.
Bovine respiratory disease is the most common cause of illness and death in Australian feedlot cattle.
This project will provide the feedlot sector with improved strategies for managing bovine respiratory disease in feedlots and will include the production of a best practice manual.
A combination of on-farm research and subsequent modelling has identified that:
Flexibility in livestock systems is important for risk management in variable climates
More lucerne increases production and profit
Right plant, right place and sustainable grazing management leads to persistent pastures
Shrub belts placed at the break of slope do not significantly reduce recharge or water logging. Lucerne is a more effective option where it can be used.
Shelter from perennial grass hedgerows or shrubs can increase lamb survival, especially for lambs born as twins or triplets. However, the benefits are lower in areas with low risk of chill.
More information is available here.
Excessive heat load (EHL), or heat stress, describes the situation where lotfed livestock, primarily cattle, are not able to dissipate body heat effectively and their body temperature rises above normal. This project will evaluate options for mitigating heat load in feedlot cattle including the relationship between weather conditions, body temperature and feed intake during summer, and especially nightime intake, as a basis for developing feeding strategies that encourage heat dissipation at night. The second part of the project will examine the use of straw bedding as a means of reducing heat load on cattle during periods of hot, dry weather conditions.
Outcomes from the study will be practical measures that all feedlot operators can readily employ to reduce heat load on feedlot cattle during summer. The project will generate the scientific basis for their inclusion in the Feedlot Risk Analysis Program, which is used by feedlot operators to evaluate actions and measures that can be utilised to ameliorate heat load.
The Orange Proof Site represents the Upper Lachlan, Lachlan Slopes and Central West catchments of New South Wales and is testing the hypothesis that high-intensity grazing of native pastures improves perenniality, animal production and farm profitability, while having positive Natural Resource Management outcomes such as increasing biodiversity and increasing groundcover.
Australian cattle are highly sought after by Indonesia for use in breeding programs.
The aim of this project is to make best practice in Indonesia’s cattle breeding industry easy to understand and implement by all management levels. Written guidelines and a video outlining best practice will be produced. A workshop will be held to validate the information in the video and manual and a pilot training course will be used to test these materials.
On-farm research has identified that:
High weaning percentages for spring lambing ewes grazing native perennial grass based pastures on the North-West Slopes of NSW can be achieved by integrating forage sources such as oats, lucerne or tropical grasses into the forage base, or providing protein and energy supplements at key times.
Pastures with a mixture of lucerne and tropical perennial grass have potential to increase total dry matter production and spread its distribution more evenly through the year, thereby reducing feed gaps and providing greater resilience in variable seasons, while helping to conserve natural resources on farm.
Native vegetation on farms, particularly woodlands and little disturbed grasslands on gently sloping country, can be important for biodiversity conservation and for providing ecosystem services. Conservation of Box Gum Grassy Woodlands on the North West Slopes of NSW is best achieved through on-farm management of high quality remnant patches.
Further information can be found here.
A short (21 day) grazing trial in April 2012 demonstrated that sheep were able to increase weight when grazing Tedera (a drought tolerant perennial legume originating in the Canary Islands) at a time when sheep in WA would normally be losing weight. There were no obvious health impacts on the sheep.
The project will examine the value of Tedera to sheep grazing systems. New trail sites will be set up and the impact of Tedera on lamb survival and ewe conception rates will be examined.
Managing reproductive rates and disease risk are major priorities for cattle farmers.
This project is assisted Queensland cattle farmers to identify where reproductive losses are occurring and their impact. Conception rates and foetal and neonatal calf losses were also studied. The project is also reviewed property vaccination programs for leptospirosis and vibriosis to ensure they are in accordance with recommendations, as well as identifying the pestivirus status of participating herds and their risk of infection. This work took place on Producer Demonstration Sites at Emerald and Springsure in Central Queensland.
There is an oportunity for farmers to assess pasture cover (biomass) and alocate stock to paddocks on the basis of mathcing feed demand and feed supply. However currently this technology is subjective, time consuming and subject to error.
This project will investigate the use of Active Optical Sensors for the real time measurement of biomass production in pastures. Active Optical Sensors will be calibrated to measure pasture production across a range of agro-ecological regions and pasture types in southern Australia. A mobile device application will also be developed for producers to use the technology and geo-reference measurements.
This project at the Country Downs, Broome, Producer Demonstration Site is aiming to determine the benefits of using the Tick Off system compared with alternative methods of external parasite control practices in northern beef herds. The Tick Off system works by automatically spraying the exact dose of treatment chemical on animals when they trigger it by walking across a buried sensor.
Castration remains an important procedure for sheep and cattle husbandry and on-farm management of these animals in Australia. Animals are castrated for a variety of reasons, including reducing aggressive behaviour, which decreases bruising and injuries to themselves and other cattle and to allow for selective breeding.
This project will produce a cheap and practical device designed to administer local anaesthetic for lambs being castrated. If successful the same technology will be scaled up for use in calves.
Maximising the growth rate of cattle and their conversion of energy to beef through careful management of their feed sources is good for the environment and helps to increase the viability of farming properties.
The More Beef from Pastures program seeks to achieve an environmentally and economically sustainable increase in kilograms of beef produced per hectare through optimal management of the feedbase. Southern beef farmers have access to seven online modules that provide tools and information to enable them to increase productivity and profit while minimising risk.
The EDGEnetwork® Grazing Land Management (GLM) education package offers practical learning opportunities to help farmers gain knowledge and develop skills necessary to improve their livestock businesses.Region-specific GLM workshops have been developed for regions across northern Australia, however a Pilbara region workshop has not yet been developed.
This project was completed during 2013 and the workshop materials are available for the Pilbara region.
Management of overabundant pest mammal populations using non-lethal approaches, such as fertility control agents, could be highly effective in some landscapes (e.g. urban and peri-urban areas, semi-enclosed or enclosed populations).
This project, will trial delivery of different fertility blockers. If successful, the outcome of the project will be orally deliverable fertility control agent(s) for use in management of wildlife and domestic animals.
The ability to translate research outcomes into practical solutions for farmers is a priority for the industry.
Making More From Sheep is a best practice package of information, tools and learning opportunities for Australian sheep producers.
Over 8500 producers have participated in Making more From Sheep events and around 50% of these indicated intent to change practice on farm.
Almost 250 leading sheep producers and technical experts helped develop the 11 modules in the manual, covering subjects ranging from soils and pasture to meat and wool marketing, animal health, genetics and farm sustainability.
A 1994 Queensland Government publication on best practice design and construction of feedlots remains a major source of information for the feedlot industry, along with guideline documents produced by state regulatory agencies. However, many aspects of feedlot design and construction have been improved and other infrastructure has become more widely used across the industry.Information on these improvements is available in the public arena and substantial knowledge and experience resides with individuals that work in the industry.
This project will collate the latest information on all aspects of feedlot design into a best practice design and construction manual for feedlot facilities. The aim is to produce a document that is relevant at a national level and complements the information available in various state and national guideline documents.
Result: The project undertook an initial desk-top assessment of the feasibility of the various technologies available to feedlots to recover the energy in the liquid and solid wastes they produce. It was concluded that adoption of combustion or gasification technologies to process harvested manure could, in the next five years, effect significant reductions in waste disposal costs, generate significant amounts of green energy and electricity and in the case of gasification, sequester significant amounts of carbon in the char. Pilot plant assessment was recommended as a means of confirming the technical and economic viability of the combustion and gasification technologies for manure processing.
Prickly acacia is a weed of national significance which affects grazing in northern Australia. Better control of prickly acacia will reduce mustering costs, avoid ongoing weed control costs and increase pasture production.
A potential bio-control agent for Prickly Acacia has been found in India. Laboratory tests are underway to test its effectiveness while confirming it will not attach to non-target species. Regulatory approval to release the insects will be undertaken if results indicate
that the agents are host specific and do not pose any non~target risk.
The newly developed HOG-GONE sodium nitrite feral pig bait is a more humane control agent for feral pigs. The bait is being developed and evaluated to support registration by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
Introduced woody legumes growing in Australia’s northern grazing lands could become a major issue for production and native vegetation and pastures, if left unchecked.
This project was the fourth phase of a fifteen-year plant control program that began in 1999. It was developed following concerns by government researchers and the grazing industry that some of the legumes evaluated in plant evaluation programs may become significant weeds of north Australian grasslands. This phase continued an overall aim of containing plants to known control areas, preventing seeding and reducing plant populations. There has been steady progress towards landholder control over the last three years. Containment of plants in known control areas has been achieved at all but a few sites and seeding prevented at most sites. Recommendation for next steps are under review.
Pasture weeds are a major issue for mixed farmers, and chemical control options for mixed farmers are becoming limited due to increased incidence of herbicide resistance in common pasture weeds in Australia and the mixed farming zone.
This project will evaluate herbicide resistance in common weeds across southern pasturelands, in an effort to predict which districts require more intensive management and herbicide rotation.
Result: The project found that trees can be very reliably distinguished from the ground, and woody weeds can be effectively distinguished from native species. While not as reliable, species of woody weeds can be distinguished from each other in most cases. In a previous project, completed in 2010, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was developed, tested and collected a large resource of aerial images of farmland in northern Queensland. This second project aimed to develop an automated system to process the data collected by the UAV. The findings of this project could potentially provide support for management tasks such as early detection, assessing the extent of an infestation through detailed up to date mapping of survey regions, or even planning an efficient route to inspect and treat the detected targets.
Utilising as much of a beef or lamb carcase as possible during processing makes economic and environmental sense.
A number of industry projects have worked to increase the volume and value of products that can be derived from a carcase during processing in order to ensure maximum productivity. Such renewable by-products of the beef and lamb industry represent opportunities to maximise carcase utilisation and minimise waste streams. Read some of the reports here.
This project will fill a significant research gap by seeking to determine the genetic relationship between feed efficiency, methane production and reproduction in sheep. This project uses whole-farm modelling to re-evaluate the scope for sheep selection strategies to reduce methane emissions and improve whole-farm profitability
This project will develop practical selection indices for sheep producers that will profitably incorporate reducing methane emissions into existing sheep breeding programs.
Parkinsonia is an exotic plant that has been recognised as a weed of national significance because of its invasiveness and its ecological, economic and social impacts.Research work on a Parkinsonia dieback phenomenon across northern Australia has identified a range of naturalised or native fungi that have adapted to use Parkinsonia as a food source, thereby resulting in significant tree death events.
This project will evaluate a fungi-based formulation and if successful, subsequent registration of a bio-herbicide to control Parkinsonia. The vision for this research is to develop an environmentally friendly and effective mechanism to manage Parkinsonia infestations across Australia's rangelands using a technology which is innovative, safe, and cost effective.
Potential exists to reduce the environmental impact of converting low value co-products from beef and lamb processing, such as offal, into valuable products for the health food, pet food and pharmaceutical industries. Conventional processes for extracting and purifying such bioactive co-products utilise organic solvents which require energy intensive capture and recycling.
This project was aimed at cutting the environmental footprint of this process. Read the results here and here.
In rumen bacteria, several pathways are involved in the conversion of feed intovarious energetic end products in competition with methane production. Methane represents a direct loss of digested energy that could be used for increased production if that energy could be redirected into live weight gain. This project will determine the ability of rumen to utilise this energy when methane production is inhibited in beef cattle.
This project will undertake studies in beef cattle to analyse the effect of inhibited methane production on metabolic pathways and more specifically on the production of short chain fatty acid and the rumen microbial community structure.
Rubber bush was introduced to Australia as an ornamental plant, but has spread to grazing lands in northern Australia, with negative environmental and productivity impacts. Dense rubber bush infestations reduce livestock carrying capacity, increase chemical control costs and increase mustering costs.
This project aims to improve the understanding of the distribution and rate of spread, reproductive biology, invasiveness and control of rubber bush. It will enable more strategic, effective and cost-efficient management and control.
Result: A number of contaminants are present in feedlot manure and effluent. Their abundance varies greatly from one material to another though patterns are similar between feedlots. Endocrine disrupting compounds and parasiticides are present, though only at very low levels. The more abundant pathogens were pathogenic E. coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia. Less abundant were Salmonella enterica, Yersinia pseudotuberculosis, Leptospira spp., Coxiella burnetii and Mycobacterium paratuberculosis. Many of these pathogens cause gastro-intestinal upsets and associated symptoms. However, some are responsible for more serious diseases. Leptospira and Coxiella burnetii (cause of Q-fever) are well known high risk pathogens but they were only found sporadically. While the project identified some situations where exposure to these pathogens was of concern, it also identified management practices that can quite easily reduce the human health risks to much lower levels. Guidelines for managing these areas of risk were developed as part of the project.
Cattle are castrated for a variety of reasons, including reducing aggressive behaviour, which reduces bruising and injuries to themselves and other cattle. The practicality of using local anaesthetic during castration has thwarted its widespread use in Australia.
This project looked to extend the use of needle-free technology to develop a device that could inject a local anaesthetic to reduce pain associated with castration and potentially other surgical husbandry practices. The concept has been proven and the key will be finding a way to deliver a tool that is practical and reasonably priced. Read the report here.
Ruminant methane emissions are a product of microbial fermentation. The host animal influences microbial populations by feed choice and through morphological / functional variation in its fore-stomachs. There is evidence that these are heritable through the host. The overall objective of this project is to measure methane emissions on sheep from selection lines at different ages on different diets and use the measurement and the samples taken to better understand the link between the host genome, rumen physiology and the microbial genome in the rumen.
This work will underpin discovery of new tools to breed low methane emitting sheep, permitting the Australian sheep industry to participate in the Carbon Farming Initiative.
Best practice disposal of manure and effluent produced at cattle feedlots is an important issue for the feedlot sector.
This project will develop a reference and extension document for industry use, which outlines the best practice management requirements for sustainable land application of manure and effluent. The handbook will also incorporate the results of a manure contaminants project and include a calculator that can be used to evaluate the worth of manures as sources of nutrients, allowing comparison with artificial fertilisers.
This project will undertake trials to evaluate manure for nutrient delivery and soil amendment, including the effect of manure applications on soil organic matter levels. Trial work will involve the application of feedlot and a range of other manures to small, replicated field plots over a period of five years at four sites across the Darling Downs in Queensland. Results will enable industry to break the nexus between manure value and nutrient profile by quantifying its value as a soil amendment agent in addition to its value for nutrient delivery.
In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the use of various types of bedding materials in cattle feedlots. While the primary interest relates to the potential for improvements in animal health and welfare, there are many other reasons bedding materials are being examined, including heat load amelioration, dag reduction, odour and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
An initial scoping study collated baseline data on previous and current bedding usage, and industry experience of the benefits and issues associated with the use of the various materials that have been trialled. It also identified sources of materials that are potentially available for use. Based on the collected information, a second research project is now being implemented to examine the benefits of, and to address any issues arising from the use of, bedding materials in feedlots.
Solid waste from processing facilities can be used to create biogas through anaerobic digestion. Biogas can be used to generate electricity, however to date this process has been too expensive for commercial application in the industry. A research facility located at a meat processing plant outside Brisbane is focusing on optimising the anaerobic digestion process and producing as much biogas as possible. This project is providing useful data on the performance of the system and reducing the treatment process from 15 to 4 days, which will in turn make the process more cost effective.
The nutritional limitations of pastures in northern Australia can be overcome, in large part, by provision of additional protein at critical times of the year. A locally produced source of protein at a low price has the potential to completely transform the northern beef industry by markedly increasing growth rates of steers and heifers and through permitting maintenance of cow body condition at critical times. Microalgae are the most promising source of locally grown protein. There are both fresh water and saline water species which can be grown on any land as long as there is a source of water.
Previous research has shown that supplementing weaner steers with Spirulina microalgae increased intake, digestibility and microbial protein production. This project will develop and test simple production systems applicable to on-property operations in northern Australia, determine the best growth conditions and develop simple methods to harvest and store algae from these ponds. Candidate algae species will be tested in animals for live weight gain responses.
The livestock processing industry is constantly searching for the most efficient use of processing by-products.
This project is scaling up and demonstrating commercial viability of a process for manufacturing biodegradable plastics from the beef and lamb processing industry’s higher protein waste streams. Such bioplastics are a renewable raw material, offering an opportunity to better utilise processing waste streams.
Result: This research revealed a number of challenges in the processing of solid waste from meat processing into a feedstock and confirmed that more investigation is needed in the future, including whether it is economically feasible.
Australia exports about 60% of the livestock it produces and enjoys a trading advantage, thanks to the freedom from many diseases that occur elsewhere in the world. An outbreak would close many markets until the disease was contained or eradicated.
Government, animal health authorities, Australia’s livestock industries and emergency management organisations are part of the charge to maintain Australia’s biosecurity safeguards. Meat & Livestock Australia, on behalf of cattle and sheep farmers, invests around $6 million a year in projects to detect, diagnose and manage diseases.
Using micro-organisms to break down beef and lamb processing waste, without oxygen, is emerging as a cost effective and low risk method for handling this material and to generate renewable energy. Pilot work has shown that chemical elements, used in fertilisers, can be recovered from this waste.
This project was piloting nitrogen and phosphorous recovery at a biodigester pilot plant with the aim of recovering 1kg of fertiliser per day. Read the results here.
Australian sheep and cattle are often exported to overseas markets. The Australian industry is committed to improving these overseas markets to ensure safe animal welfare standards.
The aim of this project is to upgrade and produce a manual of livestock handling facility designs that are suitable for ports, farms/feedlots and abattoirs in export markets. Truck specific designs for components such as pens, gates, side and flooring options will also be included. The manual will be a one-stop-shop of facility designs for the live export trade, covering sheep, goats and cattle.
An integrated worm control program has been developed for Merino sheep in the summer rainfall region of NSW's New England region and shown to successfully reduce drench frequency and mortality due to worms, and offer a cost improvement of about $1.80/head/year.Similar guidelines for meat sheep in eastern Australia are currently lacking.
This project will address meat sheep and their lambs and take into account their genetic makeup and production differences from wool sheep. Researchers will develop integrated worm control programs that lift the limits imposed by worm infection for sheep meat production systems in the New England, Central West and South West regions of NSW and the north east and western districts of Victoria.
Farmers and others involved in caring for cattle use visual signs to assess the condition of the animals in their care.
This project aimed to develop tools that are applicable around the country and allow industry and other stakeholders to recognise and describe body condition in all breeds of cattle. It aimed to also enable farmers, truck drivers and others responsible for caring for animals to recognise animals in poor condition and inform their decisions as to whether they are fit to load onto trucks or require emergency measures to preserve health. This guide is now available. Read ther report here.
This project will deliver, develop and pilot a global assurance program for the Australian livestock export industry.
This program will model existing production systems and assess potential impacts under a changing climate. The project is working with producers to ensure usability. Adaptation options will be developed and future performance also assessed by modelling, enabling progress to be tracked.
A shift towards producing meat sheep in Western Australia and the need to reduce reliance on chemicals to control parasites makes the implementation of an integrated approach to worm control a high priority.
This project will validate integrated parasite management (IPM) procedures tested elsewhere in Australia and in wool sheep, while equipping livestock advisors with the knowledge and confidence to facilitate the wider adoption of IPM, also in Western Australia.
Climate variability is a critical issue for cattle and sheep farmers in terms of the sustainability of their business.
The Managing Climate Variability program has been researching multi-week climate forecasting for farmers for 18 years. The program provides farmers with practical tools to incorporate climate information into farm business decisions and was instrumental in setting up the Water and the Land section of the Bureau of Meteorology web site.
The aim of climate champions is to connect research to farmers. Climate champions trial early research products and practices, influence how research is communicated to their peers and help farmers in their region learn how to deal with increasing climate variability - www.climatekelpie.com.au.
Unintentionally introduced in the early 1900s, five exotic weedy Sporobolus grasses, including giant rats tail grass, have invaded an estimated 450,000ha of grazing land in coastal and sub-coastal eastern Australia, reducing livestock carrying capacity by up to 80 per cent and costing the industry about $60 million annually.
This project conducted a preliminary assessment of the effects of the two fungi, Nigrospora oryzae and Fusarium sp., on Giant Ratstail Grass, to see if they produce the same symptoms as in Giant Parramatta Grass reducing plant size and potentially survival. The project also assessed field-collected material of for the presence of either of these fungi. Giant Ratstail Grass decreased in total biomass over 8 months in a glasshouse trial when inoculated with the fungi, and the effects of the fungi were additive. Further work was recommended.
Australian sheeps and cattle are often exported to overseas markets. The Australian industry is committed to improving these overseas markets to ensure safe animal welfare standards.
This project will undertake a literature review to identify any innovations or developments that may direct research that have the potential to improve environmental conditions within livestock vessels and facilities. It will also draft a set of best practice guidelines
Collaboration with government and other primary industries to deliver increased landholder and extension service provider knowledge on climate change issues affecting the dryland grains and mixed farming sectors in southern Australia.
Moredun Research Institute has patented a vaccine which has been shown to protect against barber’s pole worm infestation. This technical breakthrough has led to a project to accelerate production and clinical trials in Australia, enabling registration by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority by mid-2014.
Barber’s pole worm is a blood sucking parasite that can kill sheep, goats and calves. Until now, there has not been a commercial vaccine against intestinal worms, including barber’s pole worm, in any animal. This project provided the efficacy and safety data required for registering Barbervax for suckling lambs with the APVMA. The vaccine was launched in Oct'14, with claims for weaners and adult sheep to follow in due course.
To determine the thermal thresholds for Australian sheep in the Middle East in an effort to reduce heat stroke related mortality and to ensure positive welfare outcomes
At what point do sheep start to accumulate heat?
What is their ability to thermo-regulate under conditions to which they are likely to be exposed?
How does high heat load impact on their immune system?
Increasing climate variability will impact on the operation of feedlots. Feedlots will need to adapt to these challenges by changing practices.Climate variability will be different in each region of Australia, meaning that specific studies of each of the major lotfeeding regions are essential.
This project is identifying and using the relevant climate models to predict possible climate scenarios for each of the five major lotfeeding regions. These scenarios are being described and the impact on feedlot effluent management, stock water and heat stress analysed and presented. This will be coupled with the development of recommendations for the feedlot industry to assist in management of the impacts of increased climate variability. This project is now complete.
Producer Demonstration Sites are on-farm research and demonstration projects. They allow groups of beef producers and extension staff to demonstrate, develop and adopt priority research technologies and findings.
Meat & Livestock Australia is involved in funding 14 sites to shorten the time lag between technological innovation and ‘on ground’ use. Projects are aimed at groups of beef producers and partner organisations throughout Queensland, the Northern Territory and the Kimberley and Pilbara regions of Western Australia.
The impacts of climate change, and the implications for industry sustainability and vulnerability, will likely vary greatly across northern Australia, from the very extensive production systems in the Kimberley region across to the relatively more intensive and productive systems found in central and southern Queensland. This project is identifying and reporting on thresholds beyond which incremental adaptation is unlikely to be adequate. The conditions and regions where incremental adaptation may be insufficient to offset climate impacts. Coping mechanisms for the northern beef industry and the draft input for use in forming a strategic industry response plan.
An expanding knowledge base indicates that significant changes are occurring in the virulence of circulating field strains of rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus, accompanied by the development of genetic resistance to the disease in rabbits.
It is critical for the maintenance of rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) as an effective biological control agent in Australia to have a clear understanding of changes in RHD virus virulence and RHD virus genetic resistance in rabbits, and how these processes are interacting.
In six target regions (Kimberley, Alice Springs, Victoria River Downs, Queensland Gulf, Fitzroy, Maranoa-Balonne), the implementation and effectiveness of the most promising mix of adaptation responses in each region is being evaluated, improved and extended through on-property case studies, targeted data collection, scenario testing and engagement with landholders.
Rabbits can develop immunity to the rabbit hemorrhagic disease (RHD) virus, making it ineffective. An approach is needed to allow new strains of the virus to be released to maintain pressure on the rabbit population.
This project aims to use natural selection to produce strains of rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus (RHDV) strains that are able to overcome immunity and potentially resistance to existing RHDV strains. This non-GMO approach will provide a technology for the continuous supply of suitable calicivirus strains that will help to sustainably address Australia’s rabbit problem.
Building research capability is critical to making both environmental and economic advances in the cattle industry.
This project supports a postdoctoral fellow under Dr Andrew Ash's supervision at the CSIRO to build and maintain research capacity in the analysis of livestock production systems research for northern Australia. The project will contribute to the National Beef Research Development and Extension strategic imperative of increasing cost efficiency and productivity, including adaptability and risk management. A focus on animal productivity and feed production is fundamental to improved environmental outcomes.
Farmers benefit greatly from attending events that allow them to hear about the latest farming methods from experts in the field, as well as the opportunity to network with other farmers.
Meat Profit Days provide beef and lamb farmers the opportunity to get the latest information on industry research, new products and trends for achieving greater profitability within their business.
Meat Profit Days are held twice a year in various locations around Australia.
There are likely to be a mix of economic, structural, social and cultural constraints to more rapid adoption of sustainable grazing practices. Understanding how these social drivers of change operate within a resource-dependent community is important if extension programs and/or external incentives are to be effective in the long-term. This study is evaluating the influence of social capital, individuals’ perceptions and aspects of resource dependency, on graziers’ decisions to change towards more sustainable management.
To achieve effective management of rabbits, Decision Support Systems (DSS) are required to ensure land managers make decisions on where, when and how to apply the most appropriate management options.
A DSS can assist decision making at a range of scales from local farm level up to state or even national level where decisions on funding allocations need to be made.
Research is planned to gain a deeper understanding of the key on-farm tactical and strategic decisions that lead to more efficient use of resources for cattle and sheep grazing. A need has been identified for improved data and information collection to ensure that research meets farmer’s current and future needs and that research is able to answer their questions and inform better decision making.
The role of wild dogs in agro-ecosystems in eastern Australia is unclear. Wild dogs affect livestock production enterprises in many areas but they are also perceived to reduce competition between livestock and kangaroos and enhance biodiversity conservation efforts by suppressing foxes and feral cats. The interactions between dogs, foxes and cats and the likely effects of lethal control of wild dogs are speculated but, untested, and are affecting dog management options.
This project will determine whether current wild dog control practices increase, decrease or have no impact upon populations of native animals, cats and foxes. It will also work to understand the attitudes of the Australian community and its various sectors to wild dogs and their lethal control in order to guide policy and control options for farmers. This research will allow informed, strategic wild dog management action plans, which address the needs of meat and wool producers while ensuring custodianship of wildlife resources on private and adjacent public lands.
The agri-food industry faces a number of challenges, including regulatory/policy pressures and developing strategies to increase acceptance by consumers of water recycling.
This project aims to identify and enable water recycling opportunities through an integrated systems analysis and technology assessment in the agri-food industry. The project involves numerous stakeholders encompassing a wide range of food producing industries.
Result: Cogeneration, the combined production of electricity and thermal energy (heating and/or cooling) from the one fuel source, is ideally suited to the red meat industry as it uses heat and electricity at the same time and requires only low pressure steam. Although cogeneration is technically feasible, it generally has a payback period of more than five years. If the site is facing capital expenditure for energy supply, or if capital grants are available, this may bring the payback period to less than two years. A price on carbon will improve the economic signals for cogeneration, due to its significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions intensity.
Wild dogs cause significant environmental damage,contribute to goat, lamb, sheep and calf losses and are potential hosts of exotic diseases. Foxes contribute to lamb losses, are potential disease hosts and threaten several native animals.
This project furthered previous research into the development of a chemical dosage dispenser or multi-dose ejector. The MDE provides a target specific, multiple-dose toxin delivery system, capable of remaining field active over an extended period of time with minimal operational maintenance. The project demonstrated its capabilities and shortcomings that need
additional investigation to enable a commercially viable and effective product. A next phase has been outlined to evaluate a desired toxin, to target both foxes and dogs. Read the report here.
Result: The results from this trial strongly support using solid waste to generate energy at meat processing facilities that have boilers suitable for co-combustion of solid waste. Due to the significant economic advantages, it is very likely that many processing facilities with boilers suitable to co-combust solid waste will proceed with this practise in the near term.
This project is now complete. Final reports can be found at www.mla.com.au/research and development.
The use of feedlot and other manures in broadacre farming has traditionally been based on their potential to provide an alternative and cost-effective source of nutrients to conventional fertilisers. Recently, there has been growing interest in these products for their potential to provide long term increases in soil organic matter.
This project will utilise field trials to examine the effect of long term applications of feedlot manure and other manure/soil amendment products on a range of soil parameters, including nutrient and organic matter levels, microbial activity and physical structure. The economic value of these attributes will also be evaluated, so feedlot manure can be valued for the physical, microbial and chemical benefits it provides, not just $/kg of nutrient, when applied as a soil amendment in broadacre farming systems.
Result: The project found that to improve calf welfare pain relief should be provided for castration and, given the timing of inflammatory pain, this is more likely to be most practical and cost effective, with less handling stress, for surgical castration.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available from www.mla.com.au/research and development
It has been identified that Australian soils can be very inefficient at transferring applied P fertilizer into pasture growth .
This project will provide information about the growth and production of pasture legumes relative to the amount of phosphorus that is applied.
Result: This project sought to identify whether there is a genomic marker to selectively breed for cattle that don’t produce horns in order to eliminate the need to dehorn the animals. Additional markers were added to the test and coupled with a particular analysis method the markers significantly improved the outcomes. The validation of the improved test in a larger population should now be a priority, and if validated, the test can be released to the industry.
Sheep measles is caused by a specific dog tapeworm. The worms’ intermediate stage causes clear fluid-filled cysts in meat, which can become infected and form abscesses. This leads to major wastage during processing.
Data generated by the National Sheep Health Monitoring Survey identified a high prevalence of sheep measles (Taenia ovis) infection in slaughtered sheep from all sheep producing areas of Australia. Sheep measles has also been identified by processors as causing major financial losses to the Australian sheep meat industry. This study investigated on-farm transmission risk factors for sheep measles, the role of wild and domestic canids in transmission and the financial impact of sheep measles to processors. Throughout the study great emphasis was placed on use of the media to pass information back to producers. The domestic and wild dogs investigated in this study played a lesser role in transmission than expected. A surprise discovery was the small, but hitherto unrealised, role of foxes in transmission. The study also generated data on processor losses due to sheep measles. The results of this study highlighted the need to modify current control strategies and the potential benefits of protecting sheep through vaccination. An effective experimental vaccine exists but is not registered for commercial use. Controlling sheep measles would conservatively save the Australian sheep meat industry several million dollars per year. Read the report here.
A range of immuno-contraception technologies are being trialled both in the laboratory and on farm. The key strategy is replacement of surgical interventions, with effective and economic alternatives to deliver herd level control of reproduction in cattle, particularly in northern Australia.
Wild dog impacts are increasingly being felt by farmers and residents of towns and suburbs throughout the more populated areas of eastern NSW and Queensland. In various forums, local governments throughout Australia have consistently identified the need to improve understanding of wild dog ecology and develop control tools for managing wild dogs in the non-urban areas close to cities and towns.
Relatively little is known about how town dogs contribute to the more general national wild dog population, or how best to control their increasing impacts that include spreading diseases, maiming and killing pets and livestock. Management tools used to control wild dogs across rural Australia have limited use in non-urban areas close to cities and towns. This project will help to understand and limit a source of wild dogs and actively reduce immigration of domestic dogs into wild populations.
The National Livestock Methane Program is helping livestock farmers to reduce methane emissions from their animals. It is funded by the Australian Government and the livestock industry.
This project involves coordinating and managing the National Livestock Methane Program (NLMP). There are 16 projects in the NLMP with major research groups in Australia, who have expertise in the science of rumen biology and livestock management. They are collaborating to develop practical on-farm options for reducing methane emissions from livestock while at the same time increasing productivity.
Result: The project delivered four tools as part of a communications package for those involved in the industry. The tools are: A new version of the industry “Is it fit to load?” guide, updating it in line with the new transport standards. A poster, which can be used in full size version as a wall poster, or scaled down as a media advert to raise awareness of the new standards. A short video to raise awareness of the new standards and their content. A website which delivers detailed information regarding the requirements of the new transport standards and advice on how industry can meet them.
This project is now complete. Final reports are available from www.mla.com.au/research and development