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A new project aims to enhance sustainability and improve profitability across New Zealand's beef industry through the development and adoption of improved genetics.
The future-focused, seven-year programme, Informing New Zealand Beef, is funded 60 per cent by B+LNZ and 40 per cent by the Ministry for Primary Industries through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund.
The main goal was to help Kiwi beef farmers improve their performance and profitability, general manager for farming excellence at Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Dan Brier said.
A sustainable herd was very important for Kiwi beef farmers in today's environmentally-aware market, Brier told The Country's Rowena Duncum.
"It's really important that our farmers' greenhouse gas emissions and feed conversions and efficiency [etc.] are really well thought out and designed so we can carry on being profitable in the future."
The programme has the potential to increase New Zealand's beef sector profit by $460m over the next 25 years.
This would be achieved through developing a New Zealand-based genetic evaluation, which includes traits important to Kiwi beef farmers and supports a sustainable beef farming industry.
These tools would enable farmers to select the right genetics for their farm system and environment, Brier said.
"It's about our commercial hill country farmers having access to better genetics … and there are three or four different ways to do that, including increased use of AI in various herds, better data flowing from our commercial farmers and, particularly, their progeny at the meat works – all of the way back to our stud farmers.
"So we can really improve that rate of genetic gain in our herds and catch up with the really good work that's happened in the dairy and the sheep industries in New Zealand."
A progeny test farm is already up and running at Pāmu's Kepler Farm near Te Anau and a North Island site has also recently been agreed on - Lochinver Station on the Napier-Taupō highway.
The idea of these farms was to bring animals together and compare them across breeds, for example, Herefords and Angus which were cross–mated at Kepler, Brier said.
"At the moment you can't compare the breeding value from an Angus to the breeding value from a Hereford because there's no common point.
"So, the idea of these progeny tests is that they bring those breeds together and help us compare across the breeds and develop our infrastructure."
The goal was to eventually bring more breeds to the programme but it was important to know what Kiwi farmers were looking for, Brier said.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics has a Trait Prioritisation Survey out where farmers can have their say on what they are keen to see in the herd.
"For some people, it might be growth rates, for others, it might be the maternal traits of the cows on their hills, for others, it might be … environmental."
Once this information is collated the programme can move to the next stage, which is developing the tools to measure these traits.
Farmer input and understanding were "a massive piece" of the programme, he said.
"It's all very well for and our clever guys to do lots of interesting science but if farmers out in the field don't understand what it means or how it can make a difference for their business then it's a complete waste of time."