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Reducing Emissions from Livestock Research Program (RELRP) Whole program science review undertaken for Meat and Livestock Australia

Project start date: 30 July 2011
Project end date: 10 September 2011
Publication date: 10 September 2011
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Sheep, Goat, Lamb, Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle


Abatement of greenhouse gas emissions is a national priority for Australia. This program was national in participation and cooperative in nature; it has four primary themes of investigation - methane measurement, genetic improvement, manipulation of rumen activity, and farming systems and demonstration; there is a minor program on waste management. 
Methane research is particularly challenging. This is principally because of the gaseous nature of the primary product and the associated difficulties in field measurement; however the rumen is also a very difficult environment on which to carry out research and much remains to be discovered. In addition to these challenges internal to the rumen system, are the great variety and complexity of ruminant farming systems in Australia - ranging from arid to semi-arid rangelands, to improved pastures sometimes accompanied by grain, to feed lotting. 
Numerous other countries are seeking to fulfill their obligations under the Kyoto protocol; accordingly there is global research endeavour in methane abatement. Many of the Australian programs are also being explored in other parts of the world - particularly Europe, North America and New Zealand. The overall assessment of the panel is that the present research program is on par with other programs in the world and is taking logical approaches to mitigate methane. Programs may be described as being basic science (broadly, seeking new knowledge) or applied science (seeking solutions). Although some solutions are being arrived at, mainly through nutritional management, this global effort has not delivered viable additives or modifiers that provide solutions with widespread commercial application. It is generally felt that basic research will deliver new knowledge which in turn will support innovation and new solutions. 
The Australian effort has every prospect of delivering in this sphere. Detailed comments are provided for each project within the report; these are not repeated here. Suffice to say some projects are judged to be of a very high standard and well directed; for others attention is drawn to some areas of suggested improvement. The inclusion and/or level of funding is questioned for two program areas. Some areas are recommended for altered operating protocols. Thus there is a need to ensure standardisation for some operating procedures across the program; especially, this standardisation will facilitate the sharing and exchange of information. 
In a similar vein the establishment of standard operating procedures for experiments to deliver information to the standard required by the integrity offsets process is also commended. An external review or committee process to oversight experimental protocols for the purposes of the latter is suggested. It is proposed that a process of internal and external peer review be instigated within the program to ensure that it investigates only the most promising and rational areas of investigation. Deployment of a Scientific Advisory Panel is commended. 
Finally, suggestions are made towards actions and approaches facilitating higher rates of innovation and mitigation outcomes, eg approaches to improve communication, promotion of the concept of a mitigation pipeline and mechanisms that facilitate mitigation solutions from the knowledge base.