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CRV Ambreed nitrogen genetic discovery basis of govt funding

CRV Ambreed nitrogen genetic discovery basis of government funding for further research

CRV Ambreed’s genetic discovery that led to the launch of LowN Sires™ this year around reducing nitrogen leaching, has been the cornerstone of a successful bid to receive government research funding announced by Research Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods.

Dr Woods made the announcement about the 2017 Partnerships Scheme Investment Round on 30 November.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment fund will invest $8.4 million towards the seven-year research project. The project will be led by DairyNZ and co-funders CRV Ambreed and Fonterra, and will involve researchers from DairyNZ, Abacus Bio, A. L. Rae Centre for Genetics and Animal Breeding, AgResearch and Lincoln University.

The $21 million project will be made up of the government’s $8.4 million, $11.5 from farmers via Dairy NZ’s levy, and the balance coming from CRV Ambreed and Fonterra.

It’s based on breeding dairy cows with lower levels of nitrogen in their urine, urea nitrogen being one of the nutrients impacting water quality. The use of the nitrogen-lowering trait to reduce nitrogen leaching was recognised by CRV Ambreed’s research scientist Phil Beatson. CRV Ambreed is already providing farmers with semen from bulls under its LowN Sires™ brand.

The LowN Sires™ bulls are desirable for traditional traits as well as being genetically superior for the trait milk urea nitrogen (MUN). MUN is a measure of the amount of nitrogen contained as milk urea, and CRV Ambreed has found there’s overwhelming international evidence of a direct connection between MUN and the amount of nitrogen excreted in urine.

Beatson says that cows bred for lower levels of MUN are expected to excrete less nitrogen in their urine which will, in turn, reduce the amount of nitrogen leached from grazed pasture. Daughters of CRV Ambreed’s 2017 LowN Sires™ are set to send New Zealand towards saving 10 million kilograms in nitrogen leaching a year -based on the national herd number of 6.5 million dairy cattle.

The large-scale research will involve thousands of cows on farms around the country to test the effectiveness of breeding and measure the reduction of nitrogen leaching expected through genetic selection – potentially up to a 20% reduction.

CRV Ambreed Managing Director Angus Haslett says many farmers are already on the journey towards greener cows through buying straws this year from LowN Sires™ bulls, and confirmation of the major research project is very welcome.

“This is excellent news for the industry and the environment, and we congratulate the minister and our partners for seeing the importance of this research to New Zealand.”

He says farmers are already working hard to mitigate nitrogen leaching and meet environmental compliance levels. “The beauty about the genetic approach is its potential to have a significant additive effect to other strategies a farmer might be taking to reduce nitrogen leaching with minimal cost and disruption to their current farm management systems.”

The research announcement has been welcomed by DairyNZ Strategy and Investment Leader for Productivity, Dr Bruce Thorrold, who says the project is of major importance in dairy’s drive to lower its environmental footprint.

“Better options to reduce nitrogen levels in our food farming gives choices for our rural communities in that they can achieve environmental gains and maintain local businesses – it’s very much a win-win.”

Read more about the 2017 Partnerships Scheme Investment Round.

Read more about LowN Sires™.

About LowN Sires™

The primary cause of nitrogen leached into the ground and waterways comes from the cow’s urine being concentrated onto patches of land. Some of the nitrogen excreted is converted to gas, some is taken up by plants, and a substantial amount is leached with soil-type affecting the proportion that is leached.

CRV Ambreed has been researching the connection between MUN and nitrogen in urine for five years and has now identified more than 20 existing, high-quality and top-performing CRV Ambreed bulls with the desirable genetic makeup for low levels of MUN. Hundreds of thousands of straws of semen are now available from the LowN Sires™ team. “It’s exciting news for farmers, the potential that they can help meet their environmental compliance through breeding,” CRV Ambreed R&D Manager Phil Beatson says.

The link between MUN and lower nitrogen output has been acknowledged before in international research, but this is thought to be the first time in the world the specific trait has been bred for and promoted, the company says.

Beatson says CRV Ambreed research looked specifically at what could be done around Urinary Nitrogen (UN). Nitrogen taken in by cows in their diet is converted into five areas: Milk protein (+ urea); growth (muscle is protein); dung; gases and also urine – the most interesting from an environmental perspective.

Since 2012, CRV Ambreed has looked at the MUN concentration in 650,000 milk samples and analysed them to understand what is inherited, and to create a MUN value for all animals.

Beatson says farmers who already herd-test and herd-record with CRV Ambreed will automatically get the MUN values of their cows from June. This will help with decisions around culling or keeping cows for AI using bulls with good MUN values. Farmers who begin to herd-test and herd-record with CRV Ambreed from June 2017 will have their herd’s MUN values by the end of the year.

CRV Ambreed is already known for its team of bulls that are helping breed higher tolerance to Facial Eczema and has also launched homozygous polled bulls, whose progeny do not require time-consuming and costly dis-budding.

Note to editors:
The name “LowN Sires” and the term “LowN” have been registered/trademarked by CRV Ambreed.

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