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Cattle heat tolerance research outcomes demonstrate benefits of international research collaboration

Posted 24 August

“Our University Farm is part of this network of global research farms and will provide key data as it moves towards net-zero as part of the University’s strategy. Working across this network, sharing good practice and collating global data will greatly aid this transition.”

Vechur cattle: a brown cow and calf stand on grass next to a river in the sunshine

The research compared genetics of Vechur cattle (pictured), endemic to Kerala, India, and cross-breed cattle.

Research into genetic markers for heat tolerance in cattle - which could mitigate the impact of climate change – has demonstrated the benefits of an international research platform.

That is the view of Harper Adams University Interim Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Lee, who was part of a multidisciplinary team of researchers from across the globe who collaborated on the research through the Global Farm Platform.

The researchers found a marker gene - christened ATP1A1 – which could be used to select heat-tolerant animals. The discovery was achieved by comparing genes in Vechur cattle, endemic to Kerala, India, and cross-breed cattle.

The research, which has featured in the national press in India, was led by Kerala Veterinary and Animal Science University. The university’s Assistant Professor in the Department of Animal Genetics, Muhammed Elayadeth-Meethal, said the identification of such marker genes was an important step in a selection process that could help develop livestock with heat resistance.

In the UK Professor Lee, a senior author on the resulting paper published in the journal Animals welcomed the research as an exemplar of how collaboration through the Global Farm Platform can help to identify such solutions and assist with sustainable livestock production.

Professor Lee said: “This work to seek an understanding of the mechanisms for heat tolerance within cattle will help provide a pathway to realise greater selection of animals which are more suited to heat stress and therefore improve animal performance, which will ultimately reduce emissions and improve animal welfare.

“We live in a climate-changing world which needs to mitigate and adapt. The Global Farm Platform was established to link multidisciplinary research and farm facilities across the planet to seek solutions for sustainable ruminant livestock production in light of these growing challenges and threats.”

Harper Adams University and its Farm are participants in the Global Farm Platform, which comprises 16 farms and 23 member institutes from around the world.

Each farm is used as a real-world base from which to develop, demonstrate and refine ‘ideal’ farming systems that are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable in their region – as well as sharing research internationally through the Global Farm Platform network.

The research produced by each farm platform can be used to ascertain and then demonstrate the most efficient production systems across a varied range of climatic conditions. Outcomes can then be used to inform policy and practice development.

Professor Lee added: “We were delighted and honoured to join such a high-profile group of internationally-renowned research organisations in the Global Farm Platform, seeking to address the vital role ruminant livestock can play to feed a growing human population through providing high-quality nutrition - at the same time as reducing their environmental burden.

“Our University Farm is part of this network of global research farms and will provide key data as it moves towards net-zero as part of the University’s strategy. Working across this network, sharing good practice and collating global data will greatly aid this transition.”

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