25 June 2012

The Queensland Government has injected $1.5 million into a $9 million UQ co-ordinated research program that will deliver state-wide returns for northern beef producers.

Speaking at BIO 2012 in Boston, Queensland Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ros Bates said the Queensland Government's science funding would boost Queensland's international science credentials and had the capacity to markedly improve the state's economic, employment and lifestyle prospects.

Expert teams have mapped out a comprehensive new strategy to dramatically improve the blood lines of northern beef cattle.

The teams, working on two separate research projects, are comprised of scientists from the Queensland Government, UQ’s Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship and their northern beef industry collaborators.

According to the coordinator of the two projects Professor Mike Holland, a QAAFI research affiliate, CSIRO visiting scientist and Director of Research and Development at UQ’s School of Veterinary Sciences, Australia’s northern herd presents unique challenges for animal scientists.

“Low reproduction efficiency has long been recognised as a special problem in tropically adapted breeds, which are integral to the success of beef cattle production in Queensland's harsh tropical environment,” he said.

By increasing weaning rates (number of calves weaned per 100 cows mated), identifying genes from heavier cattle, and selecting genes from those cattle which naturally lack horns (poll gene), the integrated research program expects to increase herd numbers and profitability within three years.

One approach will be genetic improvement of seedstock herds in Queensland through a project focused on accelerating genetic improvement via breeding strategies.

Another approach, pioneered by CSIRO scientists, will survey the DNA of breeding herds and develop DNA-based tests to identify young sires who will produce highly fertile daughters, again accelerating the rate of genetic improvement.

CSIRO Food Futures Flagship Director Dr Bruce Lee said this collaboration was a great opportunity for CSIRO and its industry partners to work with QAAFI.

“Our collaboration to deliver novel technologies will enhance the productivity and sustainability of the northern beef industry,” he said.

QAAFI Centre for Animal Science Director, Professor Stephen Moore, said genomics would play an increasingly important role in improving returns on the northern herd.

“The project is a good example of how QAAFI is working successfully with other institutions to establish bovine programs which benefit industry,” Professor Moore said.

“Development and evaluation of genomic approaches coupled with more traditional selection methods for improving economically important cattle traits will continue to be one of our top priorities.”

Key partners in the integrated breeding program include:

• Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation and University of Queensland affiliates
• CSIRO Food Futures Flagship
• The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Qld)
• Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), University of New England, Armidale, NSW
• Droughtmaster Stud Breeders' Society, Australia
• Santa Gertrudis Breeders' (Australia) Association, Australia

Michael Holland
Deputy Head of School and Director of Research & Development
Professor of Animal Biotechnology
School of Veterinary Sciences
The University of Queensland
Mobile: 0407 960 782

Professor Stephen Moore
Director, Centre for Animal Science
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation
Tel: (07) 3346 6525

QAAFI Communications
Mob: 0417 425 510