Ge­netic ex­cel­lence in small pack­ages

Countryman - - NEWS - Melissa Wil­liams

Cat­tle pro­duc­ers in WA stand to ben­e­fit from in­ter­na­tional re­search into de­vel­op­ing “cli­mateready” beef breeds with a high heat-tol­er­ance thresh­old.

Led by a team from In­dia’s Ker­ala Ve­teri­nary and An­i­mal Sciences Univer­sity, with some col­lab­o­ra­tion from the Univer­sity of WA, the re­search fo­cuses on the po­ten­tial fu­ture use of dwarf ge­net­ics in breed­ing sys­tems.

UWA School of Hu­man Sciences and In­sti­tute of Agri­cul­ture head Shane Maloney said it was well known that small-sized cat­tle were bet­ter able to main­tain pro­duc­tiv­ity in hot and hu­mid en­vi­ron­ments than big­ger an­i­mals. This was be­cause they ra­di­ated more heat per unit of body sur­face area.

But Pro­fes­sor Maloney said se­lect­ing for heat tol­er­ance in breed­ing stock led to lower an­i­mal pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“There is an eco­nomic cost be­cause smaller, more heat-tol­er­ant, an­i­mals have a higher me­tab­o­lism per kilo­gram, re­quir­ing more en­ergy and feed per kilo­gram,” he said.

“They ba­si­cally eat more per kilo­gram of their body mass than cat­tle from tra­di­tional breeds.”

But Pro­fes­sor Maloney said the In­dian re­searchers were find­ing dwarf cat­tle — as op­posed to small cat­tle — had evolved bet­ter heat tol­er­ance mech­a­nisms, mean­ing they were bet­ter adapted to hot­ter and hu­mid cli­mates.

He said it was un­likely that pro­duc­ing dwarf breeds would be a com­mer­cial suc­cess in Aus­tralian con­di­tions but the genes stem­ming from the In­dian project could be very valu­able to the lo­cal beef and dairy in­dus­tries in fu­ture. Pro­fes­sor Maloney said sim­i­larly to the grains in­dus­try set­ting up an in­ter­na­tional seed “bank” the dwarf cat­tle genes could be housed as a “long-term in­sur­ance re­source” for breed­ers.

“We know there is a heat im­pact on dairy cat­tle in the South West when the tem­per­a­ture hu­mid­ity in­dex climbs in sum­mer,” he said.

“Pas­toral­ists in the north may also ben­e­fit from ge­net­ics that could pro­duce more pro­duc­tive stock in their hot and wet en­vi­ron­ments. Heat-tol­er­ant breeds are pre­ferred, as these re­quire min­i­mum diet and man­age­ment mod­i­fi­ca­tions.”

Ker­ala Ve­teri­nary and An­i­mal Sciences Univer­sity project leader Muhammed Elayadeth-Meethal worked with UWA in 2013, through The Craw­ford Fund, and trained in ther­mal phys­i­ol­ogy mea­sure­ments.

Pic­ture: Ker­ala Ve­teri­nary and An­i­mal Sciences Univer­sity, In­dia

An adult Vechur dwarf breed an­i­mal pales in size com­pared to an adult.

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