8 Sep 2021

Low-emissions New Zealand-specific beef genetics programme launches

10:47 am on 8 September 2021

A $17 million genetics programme aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of New Zealand's beef cattle has been launched.

No caption

New Zealand beef cattle. Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

The programme is being funded 60 percent by Beef and Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) and 40 percent by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

BLNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said it would provide farmers with the genetic selection tools they needed to breed animals better suited to New Zealand's farming conditions.

He said the beef industry had been lagging behind on genetic progress and the programme would capitalise on work already done for the sheep industry.

"A major focus of the programme is to work with commercial farmers to increase understanding and grow confidence in using genetic information to drive productivity and profitability," he said.

The programme is targeting a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of product produced. Industry modelling showed introducing a beef genetics programme specific to New Zealand could increase profit by $460 million over a 25-year period.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the government was looking to all sectors to pull their weight with the Emissions Reduction Plan. This project formed an important component of the primary industries' response to climate change, he said.

"The cows most suited to New Zealand's production systems will be moderate in size, but still highly productive. Moderate-sized cows which require less feed will help to lower the impact on soils and produce less methane," O'Connor said.

The new genetics programme would use Artificial Insemination and genomic selection to identify the bulls with the best genetic markers earlier in their life, and with greater accuracy, he said.

No caption

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs