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Scientific review for B.CCH.1015: Breeding low methane emitting sheep and elucidating the underlying biology

Project start date: 29 March 2010
Project end date: 14 May 2010
Publication date: 14 May 2010
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Lamb


Executive summary
A) To review and evaluate the short-term methane measurement technique as the best predictor of daily methane production.
B) To evaluate the design and development of equipment for the measurement of short-term methane output as the best predictor of daily methane production.
C) To review and evaluate the experiments conducted to date, including collation, analysis and reporting of all data collected to April 2010 concerned with the calculation of genetic parameters (heritability and genetic correlations) for methane emissions from sheep.
D) To evaluate the conclusion drawn to date by the research team from a,b & c above.
The researchers presented the background to the project, progress to date and plans for the future in a thoroughly professional manner.  The panel concluded that exceptional progress had been made considering the short duration of the project. The personnel comprised talented individuals forming a strong team well suited to the tasks.  The panel was concerned, however, about contingency planning in the event that the primary screening method should prove not to be highly correlated with direct measurements of daily methane emissions.  The project will generate data of significant biological value regardless of the success or otherwise of the primary screening, but achieving the goal of measuring heritability and defining proxy breeding traits would be compromised. Recommendations
The panel recommended the following: - A workshop involving the research team and a wisely chosen group of geneticists should be convened to try to find a way forward if the mobile box (MB) method cannot be validated. - Molecular community analysis of digesta samples will be carried out in Brisbane.  This will describe eubacterial and archaeal communities, in the hope that a better understanding of individual genera in relation to methanogensis will emerge.