Feed efficiency & greenhouse gas reduction

Photo: Methane race (Source: I and I NSW)
Photo: Methane race (Source: I and I NSW)

Sheep produce methane as a by-product of fermentative digestion in the rumen and hind gut. Efforts to lower emissions from sheep production systems are important for achieving long term domestic emissions targets and moderating their impacts on climate change. Research is needed to better understand the opportunities and costs of different mitigation strategies. Genetics is a powerful tool that can be used to make ongoing and permanent improvements to animals. The extent of the genetic improvements depends on the amount of variation that the trait exhibits and what proportion of this variation is heritable. Methane production is largely dependent on diet quality and feed intake, but differences in methane emissions per kg dry matter intake between individual sheep of 40 to 60% have been reported. The variation in methane production between individuals is significantly higher than that recorded for conventional sheep production traits of approximately 10 to 20% within flocks, and provides an ideal opportunity for selection of low methane producers providing the trait is heritable. It has been shown that cattle selected for higher efficiency of feed utilization produce less methane per kg dry matter intake than cattle selected for lower efficiency. This suggests that methane production is heritable and reducing methane emissions and improving productivity through genetic selection is feasible.

It is also important to define the relative importance of different management options compared to genetic variation. In addition to selection for methane production alone variation in characteristics such as growth rate, feed conversion efficiency and reproductive rates are likely to have major effects on methane production per unit of wool and meat produced.

The aim of this project is to develop practical techniques for measuring methane emissions from individual sheep on a large scale to enable the estimation of methane emissions as a function genotype, management practices and environment. New and existing data of the sensitivity of enteric methane production and whole farm profit to different mitigation strategies will assist sheep producers to prepare for comprehensive emissions accounting.

More specifically, the project will:

  • Develop and validate new methods for measuring methane production enabling large scale screening of individual animals;
  • Determine the genetic and phenotypic correlations between methane production and animal production traits and if methane production in sheep is a heritable trait;
  • Quantify variations in methane emissions as a function of genotype and management options across a range of sheep production systems and agroecological zones in Australia and define options for abatement; and
  • Contribute to the development of an accurate basis for determining methane production from sheep for use in the National Carbon Accounting System and validate these functions against benchmarking studies of flock emissions.

To read more about this research project click here.

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Practical Wisdom Notes / Fact Sheets

PW1.1 Enterprise Management Series

PW1.2 Nutrition Series

PW1.5 Precision Sheep Management

Products & Training Resources

Australian Sheep Breeding Values - A guide for ram buyers

Feeding Grain for Sheepmeat Production CD

The Feeding Grain for Sheep Meat Prodution CD is available by contacting Janelle Holzberger at the Sheep CRC on 02 6773 2927.

International Sheep and Wool Handbook

Marketing your sheep with genetic data

PSM Software - Feedlot Calculator

Reports, Articles and Presentations

Sheep CRC 2010 Conference Papers - Sheep and their management

This Conference combined world class science with its practical application.

Wool meets Meat - 2006 Conference Papers - Nutrition

Sheep CRC Practical Wisdom Notes is a series of technical notes to assist sheep producers to make sound decisions about technology and practices and then to have the know-how to implement their decisions.

News Releases

Transition at the top of sheep wellbeing research
The Sheep CRC’s Wellbeing and Productivity Program is set to go from strength to strength, with retiring program leader Professor Geoff Hinch to hand the reins to respected livestock scientist and consultant, Dr Lewis Kahn. Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/transition-at-the-top-of-sheep-wellbeing-research-24-11-2016.php
Sheep researchers star on international stage
The next generation of red meat researchers are being inspired by the success of the sheep industry’s stable of young scientists who are starring on the world stage. Five Murdoch University scientists were recently chosen to deliver oral presentations, all linked to research they are conducting through the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), at the recent International Symposium on Energy... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/sheep-researchers-star-on-international-stage-04-11-2016.php
Breeding for flystrike resistance to be made easier
Genetic research into the heritability of flystrike susceptibility in sheep, and its expression in different operating environments, is set to be incorporated into new tools to assist breeders make more informed selection and flock management decisions. Tracie Bird-Gardiner, from the NSW Department of Primary Industries, has spent the last four years collecting and analysing data from fly-struck sheep in the industry’s... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/breeding-for-flystrike-resistance-to-be-made-easier-24-10-2016.php
Understanding why farmers are pressing the app buttons
Despite the proliferation of new technology in agriculture, very little is known about the effectiveness of these new tools in improving primary productivity and adoption of new practices. A new research project from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) will evaluate the use of smartphone apps in the industry and producer attitudes towards these tools, in order to ensure future tools and... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/understanding-why-farmers-are-pressing-the-app-buttons-22-09-2016.php
UNE app development team leads the way for the sheep industry
The team behind the popular web-based app RamSelect Plus is already turning its attention to finding new solutions to the data challenges facing the sheep industry. The next project on the cards for the University of New England (UNE) Agile App team is to develop an early intervention sheep management app for the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) so that producers can ensure all animals in... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/une-app-development-team-leads-the-way-for-the-sheep-industry-22-08-2016.php
ParaBoss founder puts down the microscope
Australia’s leading sheep parasitologist, Dr Brown Besier, is drawing the curtain on a 47-year career which has delivered the industry major breakthroughs in the management of worms. Dr Besier, Principal Veterinary Parasitologist at the Department of Agriculture and Food WA, was instrumental in the development and introduction in 2014 of the Barbervax vaccine to Australia, as well as a new ‘targeted treatment’ approach... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/paraboss-founder-puts-down-the-microscope-06-07-2016.php
Major upgrade on the way for RamSelect.com.au
Commercial sheep breeders could soon have access to a new DNA test that profiles the average genetic merit of their flock. This new information will increase the precision with which rams can be selected to have the greatest impact on flock performance. The DNA test results will feature in an upgraded RamSelect app, which will also allow breeders to store details of flock rams and their genetic merit in order to make better... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/major-upgrade-on-the-way-for-ramselectcomau-21-06-2016.php
Two CRCs join forces to deliver big data solutions for livestock
Managing the well-being of sheep is set to become significantly easier for producers, thanks to a new collaboration tapping into the data science used in Australia’s national security systems. An agreement between the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) and the Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre (D2D CRC) will see the two groups working together to develop new data-based... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/two-crcs-join-forces-to-deliver-big-data-solutions-for-livestock-31-05-2016.php
Agriculture ripe for big data revolution
Agriculture is the ideal target for the development of new big data applications which can convert decades of research into usable information for farmers, according to chief executive of the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC), James Rowe. Speaking at yesterday’s Connect Expo Big Data Strategy Summit in Melbourne, Prof. Rowe told the conference that agriculture was particularly well... Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/agriculture-ripe-for-big-data-revolution-21-04-2016.php
Helping our producers move into the digital age
Australian sheep producers will have new tools to improve genetics, on-farm management and farmgate returns from a new research project supported by the Coalition Government. Click Here To Read Full Article » http://www.sheepcrc.org.au/information/news/helping-our-producers-move-into-the-digital-age-28-10-2015.php
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