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Developing options to deliver a substantial environmental and economic sustainability impact through breeding for efficiency of feed use in UK beef cattle - IF0207

Genetic improvement of measures related to efficiency of feed use is widely regarded internationally as an approach that could deliver substantial benefits in terms of improving the overall environmental and economic sustainability of beef cattle production. As a result, large-scale projects aimed at harnessing this potential are already underway in numerous countries, including Australia, Canada and USA.
The potential impact at a UK industry level is however currently very limited as very few (if any) beef animals are available for selection that have had their breeding value estimated (EBV’s) for any measure of feed use efficiency. For such EBVs to be derived with a high level of accuracy for UK animals, it would require individual feed intakes and other production characteristics to be measured on a large number of animals initially, to allow relevant genetic parameters to be derived, and routinely thereafter to ensure that high accuracy EBVs can continue to be produced. Measuring individual feed intakes is expensive (particularly to initially set up appropriate facilities and processes), and given the structure of the UK industry, could only be achieved for a sufficient number of animals and then routinely, through a high level of industry support and coordination.
This project is focused on identifying and evaluating a series of feasible options to establish a project that would act as a catalyst for the delivery of a significant and lasting positive environmental and production efficiency impact in UK beef production systems through selection for improved efficiency of feed use. Once identified, these options will then be presented to Defra and other potential stakeholders for their consideration and further development.
The project will include three main components:
Desk based modeling to establish and evaluate (primarily in terms of likely impact, support, set-up costs and subsequent running cost), a series of technically and scientifically sound options that are relevant for the UK industry.
Extensive consultations and discussions with key industry and potential funding stakeholders to refine and gauge support for the options being investigated as part of 1, and to identify the likely barriers to success.
A review of UK and international activity in the area, particularly in terms of experience in successfully engaging industry in similar projects and subsequent industry views on the results, to ensure that all evidence and lessons learnt are highlighted and taken account of in parts 1 and 2, and so that potential areas for effective collaborations and to add value are identified.
The likely financial support needed from Defra and other stakeholders (such as the devolved administrations and UK industry) to allow the development of each option will also be investigated. A number of potential funding mechanisms for delivery will be considered, and will include a review of the feasibility of using an SBRI type mechanism with a focus on public procurement of a defined number of animals recorded for feed intake or beef bulls with EBVs for one or more measures of feed use efficiency.
2.2 Objectives
The aims of the project are:(i) To establish the relative benefits and costs of a series of possible options for projects focused on delivering large numbers of animals with EBVs for measures of feed use efficiency, (ii) To help develop a platform for launching a project that would act as a catalyst for the delivery of a significant impact at an industry level in terms of improving environmental and economic sustainability of UK beef production systems.
To identify and evaluate a series of feasible options for establishing a strong platform for the genetic improvement of feed use efficiency in UK beef cattle, that will then be presented to Defra and other stakeholders for their consideration and further development. The study will consider existing evidence from the UK and overseas and will include extensive consultations with the beef cattle breeding industry. The evaluation would include a review of the relative merits (primarily in terms of likely impact, support, set-up costs and subsequent running cost) of each option identified.
To evaluate the level of support from key industrial and potential funding stakeholders for the different options and to ensure that feedback from key stakeholders is taken account of in refining possible options.
To ensure that experience and lessons learnt from similar projects that have been run in the UK and other
EVID2 Research Project Proposal Form (04/11) 5
countries are taken into account when developing the different options, and possible opportunities for effective collaborations and to add value are identified. Recent UK based projects such as the IMPRO-BEEF project (Improved protein production and efficiency from beef cattle with reduced Greenhouse Gas emissions), which was recently established with funding through the Technology Strategy Board led Sustainable Agriculture & Food Innovation Platform, will be included in the consultation and assessment.
To identify the likely level of financial support that would be required to develop each of the options identified and how this might be sourced from Defra, the devolved administrations and the UK industry.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : Defra IF0207 evid4   (286k)
• ANX - Annex : Defra IF0207 Appendices 1-4   (321k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2012

Cost: £44,865
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Bioscience Network Limited
Integrated Farming Systems              
Sustainable Farming Systems