Research & development
MLA conducts research and development (R&D) throughout the red meat supply chain to achieve the core activity of enhancing competitiveness and sustainability and to develop a competitive advantage for the industry.
MLA's R&D programs cover a range of on-farm and off-farm topics. The company also delivers a wide variety of extension and training opportunities. These programs are undertaken by MLA alone, or in partnership with government and industry.
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Recently completed on-farm R&D final reports
This project aimed to identify the importance of saving labour in the sheep enterprise, the critical periods of the year in which saving labour has the highest value and the relative importance of specific management and genetic interventions to improve labour efficiency and its impacts on profitability.
The project findings included that reducing labour input for most general tasks in the great southern of WA and south west Victoria leads to large profit increases. Sheep monitoring and grain feeding led to the biggest increase in profit across all regions. Reducing labour input for pasture monitoring was also of high value in the great southern region of WA and southwest Victoria. Efficiencies in mustering and administration were of high value in most scenarios examined. Easycare sheep and lick feeders were shown to be high value strategies primarily because they led to reductions in the requirement for labour across many periods of the year. Employing contractors to undertake husbandry tasks like dipping and jetting were of lower benefit because they free up labour in only a small number of periods.
In this Producer Demonstration Site (PDS) project a worm drenching decision program (targeted drenching - TD) designed to reduce drenching levels in adult ewe flocks at strategic intervals, without incurring significant production loss was applied on seven properties in South–west Victoria. Expected benefits include significant delays in development of drench resistance and savings in drench costs. TD uses the average flock worm egg count (WEC) to calculate a proportion of the flock to be drenched to reduce WEC below a critical level compatible with acceptable worm control, rather than to zero. The number to be drenched is calculated after provision for drenching all scouring or obviously thin ewes. Ewes to be drenched are then allocated from the lowest body condition score upwards. Average drench reductions of 58% and 48% were achieved in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 respectively without identified production penalties. Summer drenching was reduced by 63% and 49% respectively. The second summer drench averaged across both seasons was reduced by 66%. Producers either had or rapidly developed the skills required to implement TD on their properties.
This residue depletion study was required to establish a meat withholding period (WHP) and export slaughter interval (ESI) to satisfy product registration requirements. The GLP (Good Laboratory Practice) study described in this report determined the meloxicam tissue residue depletion profile in cattle following buccal administration of a meloxicam formulation (10 mg meloxicam/mL) at the maximum proposed dose rate of 0.5 mg meloxicam per kg bodyweight.
Bovine anaemia caused by Theileria orientalis is a tick borne disease which has been identified as the cause of significant morbidity and mortality of cattle, particularly in eastern Australia. Buparvaquone (BPQ) is expected to be a highly effective chemotherapeutic which is supported by previous MLA efficacy studies. Currently BPQ is not registered for use in Australia. This tissue depletion study provides data that could be used by industry to establish a withholding period for BPQ. Detectable residues were present in meat, back fat and perirenal fat up to 119 days post treatment. Quantifiable residues were still present in liver, kidney and neck muscle (site of administration) 147 days post treatment.
An investigation of rare cases of nose-bleeds in Western Grey kangaroos revealed Besnoitia-like organisms in their nasal passages. Serological and molecular investigations demonstrated them not to be Besnoitia besnoiti, the pathogen of cattle that causes elephant skin disease is re-emerging as a major disease in Europe in recent years.
Low weaning rates are common in beef herds in northern Australia. A large breeding project was established to quantify the contribution of genetics to various measures of female reproduction in two diverse tropical genotypes. Specifically the project aimed to identify early-in-life indicator traits that could be used in selection to improve lifetime reproduction rates. Weaning rates in the project were low, particularly in Brahmans, and results showed it can be improved through selection by focusing recording on early-in-life female reproduction traits. Traits associated with age at puberty and lactation anoestrus in first-lactation cows were highly variable and moderately to highly heritable in both genotypes. Several male traits were identified, including semen quality traits, that could also be used as indirect selection criteria to improve female reproduction rates. The project established that it is possible to select for improved female reproduction simultaneously with selection for steer traits (growth, carcass, meat quality and feed efficiency), however improvement in both will require recording and appropriate multiple-trait selection strategies.
Trial steers were inoculated with three different batches of both experimental chilled and frozen trivalent vaccines consisting of Babesia bovis, Babesia bigemina and Dawn strain Anaplasma marginale. Safety, virulence, infectivity and efficacy were compared with the current registered chilled and frozen trivalent tick fever vaccine containing both of the Babesia spp and Anaplasma centrale. Whilst there was no difference in safety and virulence of the experimental vaccines, infectivity of the A. marginale was poor in some of the vaccines, and unexplained lack of virulence in the challenge strain makes interpretation of some aspects of the trial difficult. Dawn strain A. marginale was also shown again to be poorly tick transmissible. It will not be possible to register Dawn strain A. marginale as a vaccine strain without further evaluation.
MLA acknowledges the matching funds provided by the Australian Government to support its research and development portfolio.