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A challenging future for the dairy industry


4 July 2012

Associate Professor Yani Garcia: "Our need to feed a growing human population from less resources and with less environmental impact is already clear."
Associate Professor Yani Garcia: "Our need to feed a growing human population from less resources and with less environmental impact is already clear."

Continued production in the face of issues of food security, energy prices, falling fertility, environmental impacts and productivity are key questions for the Australian dairy industry, worth an estimated $10 billion yearly to the Australian economy.

To find the answers the Dairy Research Foundation 2012 Symposium (PDF, 1MB) takes place on 5 and 6 July at the University of Sydney's Camden Campus. The University's Faculty of Veterinary Science is a principal organiser of the event.

"Our need to feed a growing human population from less resources and with less environmental impact is already clear," said Associate Professor Yani Garcia, Director of the Dairy Research Foundation from the University's Faculty of Veterinary Science.

"The University has been researching the best way to keep dairy cows productive while feeding them more home-grown feed instead of relying on increasingly expensive, and scarce, grains," he said. PhD student Michael Campbell is turning this concept into reality using commercial farms in NSW and Victoria as case studies to evaluate the impact of using more home-grown feed.

Other presenters from the University's Faculty of Veterinary Science at this year's symposium include:

PhD candidate Hardy Manser questions whether epigenetics and fetal programming are a possible cause of falling dairy fertility worldwide. Epigenetics refers to changes to genetic expression without altering DNA or the genetic code and fetal programming to factors which occur during conception which affect the fetus.

Due to selective breeding individual cows now produce more milk but there has been a fall in fertility worldwide. The greater milk yield is putting more stress on the cows and is associated with this drop in fertility - estimated by Dairy Australia's InCalf project as greater than one percent a year for the whole Australian dairy herd.

Dr Luke Ingenhoff on the ways in which ultrasound can be used to improve the management of reproduction and Sarinika Talukder on how infrared cameras can be used to detect when a cow is sexually receptive.

PhD student Nico Lyons will discuss how simple and cheap technologies such as smart phones and apps can be used to control irrigation systems and milk quality.

Lyons, together with PhD students Tori Scott and Derek Keeper will also show the latest research associated with FutureDairy's world first 'robotic rotary' dairy. The first commercial version, installed in Tasmania, can potentially milk over 80 cows an hour.

The symposium's two keynote speakers will discuss issues of energy use. Dr Jude Capper, assistant professor of dairy science from Washington State University, will draw on her studies into the environmental impact of production systems to suggest how to reduce waste in the dairy by, for example, improving cows' nutrition.

Food futurist Julian Cribb, author of The Coming Famine, looks at the pressure increasing energy prices will place on the food production system, especially on dairy farmers who Cribb says need to start taking action immediately.

"This symposium, hosted yearly, is the major opportunity for Australian dairy farming to consider how the latest research can address challenges and understand how new technologies can assist," said Associate Professor Garcia.


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Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au