Producer insight has been at the forefront of Meat & Livestock Australia’s research investment in 2017 to identify research priority areas for MLA investment, and assist in on-farm adoption.
This year MLA continued to offer new programs and invest in new projects identified by producers as most relevant to their business needs.
MLA’s regional consultation process kicked off two years ago to give grass-fed beef and sheepmeat producers direct input into how their levies should be invested in research, development and adoption.
This year MLA invested $9.5 million of levy funds into 12 on-farm RD&A projects.
The projects address industry priorities that fit within three themes determined by producers and industry: whole-farm breeder productivity systems; future feedbase scenarios; and profitable and efficient ruminant nutrition.
Seven of the projects are aimed at the beef sector and include the development of a single-shot immunocontraceptive vaccine for cattle and improving beef production through management of plant toxins.
Profitable Grazing Systems
To support producers in boosting their management skills and adopting new R&D, MLA launched its on-farm extension and adoption program, Profitable Grazing Systems.
The program provides red meat producers with long-term guidance from specialist coaches in a supported learning environment and involves a local, group-based approach to extension and adoption. Its aim is to help lift on-farm productivity and profitability by 2.5 per cent return on assets managed by 2022. It builds on the tools and resources of MLA’s flagship extension and adoption programs, including More Beef from Pastures.
The PGS model and content was extensively tested by 130 cattle, sheep and goat producers across Australia in the pilot program in 2016.
A mid-term review of the pilot found producer knowledge, attitude, skills and aspirations increased from an average of 46pc before the pilot started to 76pc.
PGS has its own program manager within MLA, Dr Christine Purdy, and state co-ordinators to help link producers with the service providers delivering the PGS program.
Single step to boost beef genetic gains
MLA helped achieve a world-first in the field of genetic evaluations for cattle in 2017 with the move to “Single step genetic analysis” for the Brahman breed in Australia.
Single step genetic analysis combines genomic and pedigree information with performance records to calculate estimated breeding values (EBVs).
It enables Brahman breeders and buyers who use EBVs to access more accurate, reliable data and increased ability to select for a wider range of production traits when using BREEDPLAN.
Single step genetic analyses have also been tested for the Angus, Hereford and Wagyu breeds and are on the way to being implemented.
National Livestock Genetics Consortium
MLA established a skills-based taskforce to drive the National Livestock Genetics Consortium, developed a five-year strategic plan and completed two project call rounds in 2016-17.
The Consortium aims to double the annual rate of improvement in the industry’s genetic value by 2022 through investment in livestock genetics projects that deliver one or more of the following: world-leading research and development; cultural change; disruptive technologies, and accessible data platforms.
Following an initial project call in October 2016, the Consortium taskforce recommended 12 projects to receive funding, worth $16 million, and contracts have been executed for most of them.
In early 2017, the taskforce made a second call for projects that achieve outcomes in line with the priorities. Thirty-one projects were submitted, with 17 recommended for funding, worth $17 million.
Bred Well Fed Well extends
MLA’s Bred Well Fed Well program’s practical content has been adapted to suit the beef production sector after five years of delivering tangible on-farm results to sheep producers.
The practical workshops highlight the benefits of superior genetics, plus feed management for improved reproductive performance and herd productivity.