Cattle Industry Funding Scheme: Annual Report 2013/14

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2013/14 research and development projects

Release and evaluation of the parkinsonia looper in Western Australia

  • delivered by CSIRO
  • three year project, due to be completed by 31 December 2015
  • total cost to Cattle IFS $150 000.

This project will result in the release of two new biocontrol agents of parkinsonia in Western Australia. The agents are expected to reduce density, vigour, reproductive output and spread of populations of parkinsonia, leading to higher carrying capacity and profitability. The first agent has already been released at several sites, and the second agent recently received approval from regulators (Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Quarantine WA) for release into Australia.

The project is on track to reach its second year milestones. The releases of the insects at seven sites in the Pilbara and Kimberley are being done in a systematic manner to understand the optimal release strategies for these and future biocontrol agents, and evaluations of their establishment are underway.

Increasing the efficiency of phosphorus utilisation in kikuyu-based pasture systems (improving the cost of production)

  • delivered by DAFWA
  • three year project, due to be completed by 30 June 2015
  • total cost to Cattle IFS $107 710.

The aim of this trial is to get a better indication of the phosphorous (P) requirements of kikuyu-based pasture systems in WA conditions. Given our knowledge of clover-based pastures, this project will help to improve fertiliser management and potentially reduce the fertiliser applications on kikuyu-based pastures. 
There are two aspects to the research — pot trials, which apply differing levels of phosphorus to kikuyu and rye grass; and field research. The field research is targeting a high and low phosphorous-fixing site — that is, deep leached sands for the low phosphorous-fixing site and a loamy soil for the high phosphorous-fixing site, with a good cover of kikuyu. These sites have been established in the high rainfall area of the south coast. One site is in Hazelvale near Walpole (high P fixing) and the other is near Torbay (low P fixing).

Exploring market options for ‘out of spec’ cattle in the pastoral areas of Western Australia

  • delivered by Global Livestock Solutions Pty Ltd
  • one year project, completed
  • total cost to Cattle IFS $37 000.

This project undertook a review of market options, specific to the pastoral areas of Western Australia, to allow these regions to better promote the industry on a regional basis. The review concluded that “With ESCAS, supplemented by on-ground training programs, now in place and the actual flow of live cattle out of northern Australia gathering pace, the industry can look forward to a brighter future. ESCAS has addressed public concern and reduced the future risk of major ‘interventions’ by: a) designating a responsible entity; b) identifying low-risk supply channels; c) tracing Australian livestock throughout these supply channels; and d) periodically auditing and refining performance within each supply channel. The development, implementation and operation of this system has added costs to the business of exporting cattle but these costs are deemed to be outweighed by performance assurances for the entire length of the supply chain and implicitly, greater professionalism throughout the exporting industry. It seems the live export industry is destined to strive for a steady state characterised by a combination of effective regulation (designed to satisfy the imperative of animal welfare standards) and free market forces (needed to satisfy the imperatives of economic efficiency).” The full report can be accessed from the IFS website.

Development of a TaqMan realtime PCR for the identification of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Johne’s disease)

  • delivered by DAFWA
  • two year project, due to be completed by 30 June 2015
  • total cost to Cattle IFS $60 000.

Bovine Johne's disease (BJD) is a chronic wasting condition in cattle caused by the organism Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP). The long incubation period of MAP makes it difficult to detect, limiting preventative action to minimise its distribution. Current culture methods for the fastidious organism are lengthy — taking up to 12 weeks to obtain a negative result.

This project has successfully developed a probe-based multiplex quantitative PCR (qPCR) for the detection of MAP. Early trials suggest the probe is specific for MAP and has a comparable, if not superior, analytical sensitivity to that of similar methods currently employed within Australia. Work is currently underway to determine its efficacy on diagnostic faecal samples, with the view it could complement the SCAHLS approved HT-J DNA extraction procedure.

The new assay is capable of detecting two separate MAP genes within a single tube to ensure increased specificity. The implementation of a highly sensitive and specific diagnostic test for BJD would improve routine diagnostics and further support the claim that WA remains free of BJD.

Market intelligence and consumer insight program customised for the WA beef industry

  • delivered by WA Beef Council Inc
  • one year project, due to be completed by 30 November 2014
  • total cost to Cattle IFS $45 000.

The aim of this project is to improve the WA beef industry’s capacity to use timely, relevant and readily accessible market intelligence, thereby encouraging a market-driven approach and improved information-flow across the supply chain. The project will undertake consultation with key stakeholders in the WA beef industry to identify current market intelligence — what is relevant, of value, the gaps and future requirements to support critical marketing decisions.

The information gathered through this project will inform the next phase of work, which will be to develop a strategy to improve current services to the WA Beef Industry. 

​50% of the costs of the Kimberley BJD Surveillance Program are funded using the ex-CICF monies.