Director of Te Mania Angus Tom Gubbins says there are encouraging signs for improving genetics sustainably.
Photos and words Philippe Perez, Stock and Land
For Tom Gubbins, it is time for a “change in practice” for beef producers both locally in Victoria and across Australia.
The director of genetics company Te Mania Angus uses those words to explain what he has felt is the moment to see sustainability as the number one focus for farmers who work with Angus, whether it be in a stud setting or elsewhere.
That change in practice that Mr Gubbins speaks of is happening slowly, with producers continuing to educate themselves more about the benefits of methane reduction.
“The genetics component of [sustainability] is that we know that there’s variation in the amount of methane that comes out of animals,” Mr Gubbins said.
“We also know that there’s variation in the amount of feed an animal eats at the same weight to produce the same amount of kilogram.
“If we know that there’s diversity in the population, we can start selecting for it, and we can actually reduce the amount of methane that comes out of each individual [cow], which is something that we would like to do.”
But Mr Gubbins admits there are hurdles to get over, including commercialisation, but he believes that producers still need to just “go for it” when it comes to bettering the environment.
“It is a bit difficult because all the models that calculate agricultural climate change, say that all cows are equal, but as we’ve discussed throughout the day [in our workshops], all cows aren’t equal,” he said.
“We can actually influence, create, and find the animals that are that are better for the environment and multiply them.
“It’s just the accounting system can’t take that into consideration at the moment, so we need to see we need to see models change.”
While funding may be light on the ground, Mr Gubbins is doing some of the ground work himself via an annual series of workshops for farmers.
This year, producers travelled to south west Victoria over three days to learn more about research in genetics, along with on farm visits to learn about a wide range of subjects from new ideas in soil nutrition to sustainable heifer management.
But Mr Gubbins emphasises it was now time developments in sustainability for beef production to be ramped up, so that studs can learn even more about sustainability.
“I actually think generally farmers are being asked to pull its weight on climate change, but the community is not funding the research that we really need to work out how to do that for certain,” he said.
“So [farmers] are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place at times on what is needed to be done.”
For Mr Gubbins said that a driving force had to be profitability as well as data and once carbon becomes a benefit in the value preposition, then that technology needs to be included in beef production processes and targets.
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