The sharp end of animal science is advancing through breeding and vaccines to provide livestock that can meet market food demands in a way that enables farmers to produce it and meet climate and sustainability demands.
Animal husbandry is a relevant and interesting area in this week’s interview with Sinead Leahy, and really because of its proximity to the market.
Thanks to extensive research, scientists have now raised a low-emission sheep flock that produces much less methane. In fact, between two herds that scientists have bred, one herd being a standard sheep and the second a low-emission herd, the difference in methane produced is 10% between the two.
The scientific community is now working with industry to incorporate these low emitting traits into the general herd in New Zealand. This low-emitting trait will be available through rams over the next two years. There is similar research for cattle and much of the work done in sheep can be directly transposed into cattle.
A methane vaccine is also quite possible soon and Leahy says the latest vaccine research shows that “methane-forming microbes are present in all ruminants around the world, and what a vaccine does is that it specifically targets these methane-forming microbes and impacts their ability to produce methane so that you stimulate the immune system in the animal’s mouth, and the immune system then washes out into the stomach from the rumen through saliva, then you hope the immune system is able to identify these methane-producing microbes to affect them or stop them from producing methane. “
A vaccine is probably the most sought-after type of mitigation technology due to its regular use already on the farm, and scientists have shown that it can work in a test tube that mimics a live animal. But it currently doesn’t work when tested in live animals, but no reason has yet been identified as to why it shouldn’t work, which is promising. Significant work continues in the area of vaccines and there is a real possibility that this mitigation approach will become available.
It is increasingly clear that with these types of scientific advancements, farm-based foods can be supplied to meet consumer demand while meeting climate and sustainability requirements. By leading the way on several fronts, New Zealand’s red meat industry will gain a significant market advantage.
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Listen to the podcast for the full story and full perspective of a key scientist involved in this work.
Angus Kebbell is the producer at Tailwind Media. You can contact him here.