15 Jul 2015

New pasture research to boost livestock farming

2:34 pm on 15 July 2015

The Government is putting a further $7 million into a revamped agricultural research partnership to improve pasture grasses and lift the performance of livestock farming.

Beef cattle in Rangiwahia, Manawatu.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Pastoral Genomics partnership covers the dairy, sheep and beef, deer and seed industries and includes AgResearch and Dairy Australia.

The consortium's research over the previous six years included work on genetically modified grass and clover.

But chair Mike Dunbier said along with a change in the membership of Pastoral Genomics, there would be a shift of focus in the research programme for the next five years.

"The previous edition of Pastoral Genomics had a dual focus - one on genetic manipulation and, secondly, on marker-assisted selection.

"The new programme takes the marker-assisted selection part of the programme further, by attempting to use the new advances in genomic studies to do genomic selection, to try to enable the commercial plant breeding companies to make better decisions faster."

Mr Dunbier said the aim was to develop rye grass and clover varieties that provide better feed for livestock at the time they most need it.

"The overall objective is to try and get feed for animals that is both of better quality for their needs, and at a time when it's more important to them, so we're looking at yield and seasonal distribution of yield and efficiency of nutrient use and quality.

"That's so that the animal will grow better and hopefully so that there will be less nitrous oxide and potentially methane produced from the rumen process. We certainly know that we can get new varieties that require less fertiliser to produce at the same level.

"We want more resilient pastures and persistence is obviously an important factor, and that's both being able to tolerate heat and drought and floods but also to resist disease and insects."

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