Comparison of imported and indigenous breeds for dairy production in Malawi
Dairy production in Malawi is based on two groups of cattle. Indigenous zebu and Sanga breeds (Bos indicus) are used in the informal production of milk for household consumption. Imported breeds (Bos taurus), predominantly Holstein-Friesian, are introduced as a means to maximise milk yields in the formal smallholder dairy sector. However, unlike indigenous breeds, which have evolved a high level of resistance to infectious disease and parasites and graze native pasture, the introduced breeds require housing and cut-and-carry feeding systems. The proposal will assess both systems, with regard to cost-benefit analysis and environmental impact, to determine whether selection and improvement of local breeds are more sustainable than the imported genetics. The principle of ‘genotype for environment’ is a lynchpin to the ‘Global Farm Platform Statement of Intent’. The project will involve key scientists and stakeholders skilled in genetics, animal nutrition, environmental impact and life cycle assessment at SSLLP (Malawi), Universities of Western Australia, Sydney (Australia), Alberta (Canada) and Bristol, Leeds, and Rothamsted Research (UK). Our intended funder is the Gates Foundation with the proposal developed for submission in 2015. Estimated size of the grant (ca. £500,000).
Quantifying dairy breed maladaptation to environmental stresses
High-yielding dairy cattle genotypes (e.g. Holstein-Friesian) are ill-adapted to stresses such as adverse climate, infectious and parasitic diseases to which they have had limited ancestral exposure and hence selection for resistance, and inappropriate husbandry practices, which may be widespread in marginal environments. Partners in the UK (University of Bristol, Rothamsted Research), India (KVASU) and Canada (Alberta) will use multiple standardised measures to compare bovine health and welfare in high producing genetics across a range of environmental conditions. Environmental stressors will include extremes of temperature and sub-optimal housing. Funding Targets:
- BBSRC UK/India/USA International Partnering Award (@ £50,000, target funding application; November 2014). Training in standardised health and welfare assessments (Bristol, UK), identification of suitable farm platform partners, workshop to establish project design and partner roles.
- EU Horizon 2020/Gates Foundation/BBSRC (@ £500,000, Target funding application; 2015-16). Comprehensive assessment of health and welfare of high-producing bovine genotypes in representative model farms within the GFP. We will roll out assessments in additional partner model farms in Malawi (SSLLP), Kenya (International Livestock Research Institute), Ethiopia (Bahir Da University) and China (Zhejiang University).
Global potential of deep rooting perennial grasses to counter climate change
Rainfall patterns predicted by climate change models affect global grassland agriculture in two major ways: flooding and drought. Both adversely affect livestock production by reducing grass yields, forage quality and persistence. This project will deliver multiple environmental benefits through combined deeper, extensive root systems of major grassland species, paving the way for the breeding of improved forage varieties. This will help increase soil organic carbon stocks and to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. We will identify and evaluate new grass varieties for flood control, drought resilience and carbon sequestration. Using the GFP, we will deliver measurable environmental benefits whilst at the same time maintaining appropriate agronomic traits. The project will cover the full range of GFP partners (UK, Australia, Canada, USA, India, Malawi, China and Uruguay). Target funder is DFID Agritech fund ca. £1.2 million.
A pan-genome approach to reducing methane emissions in ruminants
‘Pan-genome’ is used here to describe the full complement of genes of the host ruminant including its rumen microbiota and dietary species. Our ability to use genetics to improve the efficiency of ruminant production through reducing emissions of methane directly or indirectly will be enhanced by optimising pan-genome interactions (host, microbiota and plant genetics). Within the GFP we have key genetic resources in all major ruminant livestock industries (sheep, cattle and goats), unrivalled expertise and programs in whole animal, microbial and plant genomic analysis and bioinformatics. A pan-genome project currently funded by the Australian Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, involving several GFP partners will be used to lever interaction and extended to include the entire consortium. Target funder is the Wellcome Trust ca. £1 million.
To be added: –
Genotype for the environment
Environmental footprint and GHG
LCA of farm platforms / model farms
Remote automatic monitoring of animal and environment