Government investment in on-the-ground efforts by farmers to improve land management practices has passed a milestone, with more than 170 catchment groups nationwide now receiving support, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.
Beef+Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) is providing $10m towards the seven-year project Informing New Zealand Beef, the Ministry for Primary Industries will provide the balance.
The project is expected to result in more efficient cows within the next 25 years. The programme is targeting a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of product produced.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says the programme will lower the beef sector's greenhouse gas emissions by delivering cows with a smaller environmental hoof-print.
"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," says O'Connor.
"To date we've relied on an Australian beef genetics framework, but the time is right to create our own programme tailored to New Zealand conditions."
B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor says the programme capitalises on New Zealand's world-leading skills and knowledge in sheep genetics and applies them to the beef industry.
"The data tells us that our beef industry has been lagging behind on genetic progress," he says.
"Not only will this give the industry better genetic tools, but 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."
McIvor says dairy farmers also stand to benefit significantly.
"With these new production-focused genetic selection tools, dairy farmers will be able to select semen from beef bulls for artificial insemination in their herds, more confident that they will have shorter gestation, easy calving and produce more valuable calves."