The UWA Institute of Agriculture

Animal enterprise projects

Further Information

Future Farm 2050 has three integrated commercial enterprises:

Future Farm 2050 is undertaking research to develop a sustainable and profitable animal industry for the Australian farms of the future.

  1. Future Flock
  2. Grazing systems for livestock that reduce emissions and environmental footprint
  3. Cashmere goats

Future Flock

enclosuresThe Future Flock project uses the power of quantitative and molecular genetics to produce animals that will be ideally suited to the needs of the Future Farm in 2050.

Main drivers for the Future Flock genetic selection:

  • temperament
  • resistance to parasites
  • avoidance of the need for mulesing.

Genetic gain will be accelerated through reproductive technology.

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Grazing systems for livestock that reduce emissions and environmental footprint

eremophilaUnder the umbrella of ‘clean, green and ethical’ livestock production, there is currently major interest in the ‘green’ aspect, particularly with the drive towards new forage systems based on Australian native plants. These plants have been largely ignored by science and industry but, in the context of modern grazing industries, they offer several advantages:

  • reduced production of methane, the major greenhouse gas produced by sheep and cattle
  • possibilities as an accepted methodology for the Carbon Farming Initiative
  • post are perennial shrubs, adapted to the Australian environment, so can offer quality feed in seasons when grass-based forages are virtually worthless
  • most are deep-rooted so can help control the water table and thus dryland salinity
  • as Australian natives, their inclusion in farming systems helps with the improvement of the ecosystem and biodiversity
  • ability to combat gastrointestinal worms, offering an alternative to drugs to which the worms have become resistant, and contributing the ‘clean’ credentials of the industry.

Current research is focusing on:

  1. how the native shrubs reduce methane emissions – the role of secondary plant compounds, the effects on rumen microbial populations and processes
  2. how native shrubs can be combined with the highly developed forage pasture species (grasses, legumes) – investigation of inter-row systems in which grazing animals select their own grazing mix according to their needs for energy, protein, nutrients and medication
  3. the ‘pan-genome’ concept – ruminants carry two sets of genes, the host genome and the rumen microbiome, both of which contribute to production efficiency. Consequently, we are considering three sets of interactions: i) between the animal and its external environment; ii) between the microbiome and the rumen environment; and iii) between the two genomes. This will enhance our ability to use genetics to improve animal production systems.

This is a major collaborative program involving:

Some of the work in this project contributed to the 2013 Caring for our Country Landcare Eureka Prize for Sustainable Agriculture.

Project leader: Associate Professor Phil Vercoe

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Cashmere goats

Cashmere goatsThe Cashmere flock at the Future Farm 2050 has highest genetic merit for cashmere in Australia and provides diversity for both farming and research.

Goats provide good weed control, which is important in the context of chemical weed control and herbicide resistance, have good ‘emissions efficiency’ (that is, kg methane per kg product) thus meeting our clean and green values, as well as providing cashmere fibre and capretto.

The aim will be to develop the Australian cashmere industry through rapid genetic gain, as well as revealing the ability of alternative animals to manage the farm ecosystem, including the management of weeds. We work closely with The Australian Cashmere Growers Association Inc (ACGA).

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