Harper Adams University is set to play a key role in a £2.9m project from DEFRA’s Farming Innovation Programme.
The new programme to breed sheep with a naturally low carbon footprint will use data and research from the Harper Adams Lleyn flock.
Delivered by Innovate UK, the ‘Breed for CH4nge – Breeding Low Methane Sheep’ project will be led by Innovis, a leading supplier of performance-recorded rams, and aims to help English sheep farmers lower their carbon footprint and support agriculture’s journey towards net zero.
The project will measure methane emissions from a total of 13,500 sheep across 45 flocks, over the next three years.
It will use the data produced to build and develop tools to genetically reduce methane emissions and improve the efficiency of the national flock.
The project will eventually demonstrate the impact of low-carbon sheep on whole farm carbon footprints.
Scientific input, technology and additional genetics expertise will be provided at institutions including Harper Adams University, where Dr Sarah Morgan, Beef and Sheep Production Lecturer, will be leading the research.
She said: “This project will be taking data ‘from the field’ including here on the Harper Adams Future Farm, and feeding it right back into the industry – working with a vast range of partners on a multi-million pound project.”
“We are delighted to be offering our research expertise – and our performance-recorded Lleyn flock – as part of the work, and it is great to know our data will be helping develop sheep which are both better for farmers and better for the environment.”
Dr Eric Siquerios, Professsor Karl Behrendt and Animal Production and Health Lecturer Nicky Naylor will also be helping develop the project.
Nicky added: “This research is also going to support a number of final year student projects – so this work will not only benefit our flock, but will also benefit our students – as well as benefit the wider industry.”
The project will initially develop on-farm protocols and use new innovative tools and technologies including Portable Accumulation Chambers (PAC) to predict methane emissions from grazing sheep alongside measures of health, production and efficiency traits at the individual animal level.
Further measurements, including rumen size and microbiota, will improve understanding of underlying biology and ensure that reductions in methane emissions positively contribute to sustainable genetic improvement of ewe productivity on UK grass and forage.
The information gathered will enable understanding of the relationships between and genetic control of these characteristics, and DNA sampling will allow the underlying genome of the sheep to be investigated. This will help develop tools to compare the breeding value of sheep in the flocks, identifying stock that will contribute to a lower farm carbon footprint.
Source: Shropshire Star