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

The Old World screw-worm, Chrysomya bezziana (OWS) is one of the most serious exotic pests threatening Australia's livestock industries. The AUSTVETPLAN Screw-worm Fly Disease Strategy indicates a plan consisting of containment with chemical treatments and eradication using sterile insect release in the event of an incursion. However, there is no operational OWS sterile insect production facility anywhere in the world and institution of a program would most take at least 2 years. During that time containment of the infestation and protection of animals will be almost totally dependent on effective chemical treatments. This project tested the therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy of Australian-registered chemical formulations against OWS in a series of animal and laboratory studies.

Topical ivermectin, spinosad and chlorfenvinphos/cypermethrin combination were 100% effective in curing OWS strikes. A capsule formulation of ivermectin and spray-on formulation of dicyclanil gave complete protection against the establishment of new strikes for at least 12 weeks, significantly longer than any formulations currently available. All compounds shown to be most effective against OWS are registered for sheep treatment in Australia. Only one is currently registered for use on cattle.

The Enrich project aimed to provide knowledge and development into sustainable grazing systems, with multiple benefits, for farmers in low-medium rainfall areas through the incorporation of Australian perennial shrubs. 

Previous project work identified several shrub species with desirable productivity, nutritive value or bioactive properties. However, the effect of grazing these species together on livestock production had not been tested. Testing at two sites found that sheep could gain weight grazing shrub-based systems without supplementary feeding during autumn, a time typically associated with a feed shortage. 

Shrub-based systems, when used in conjunction with companion pasture, have the potential to increase livestock productivity and improve feedbase stability, as well as delivering environmental benefits. Work towards developing a variety of old man saltbush with higher digestibility and palatability to sheep reached the final stages of commercialisation with a pre-commercial ‘research release’. 

Substantial amounts of awareness-raising activities were conducted including field days and various media to facilitate adoption. A booklet was also developed to aid landholders to apply shrub-based systems on farm. 

Practice change due to Enrich research was assessed to have occurred on more than 500 farms.

A concern in the beef industry is that genetic change in growth and carcass quality has led to cows that have compromised productivity when under limited feed supply resulting from high stocking rate or dry seasons. 

This project scanned 7,760 cows in 15 Angus or Hereford stud herds. There were also over 500 cows run on research centres in WA and SA with intensive measurement including feed intake over 3 calving cycles. There was large variation in cow size and body composition due to both genetic and nutrition effects. 

The current carcase EBVs can be used to select for changes on cow body composition if desired. However, genetic effects on mature cow productivity or efficiency were small. Heifer management targets have been produced to aid management. Genetically lean heifers did have reduced fertility and the challenge of achieving heifer fertility EBVs on young bulls remains.

MLA acknowledges the matching funds provided by the Australian Government to support its research and development portfolio.


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