Dairy and Biotechnology
Victoria dominates the dairy industry in Australia, producing over 65 per cent of the country's milk. Over 90 per cent of Victoria's raw milk production is utilised by dairy product manufacturers. In Victoria, the industry is focused on the production of milk for manufacturing purposes whereas the industry in other States is mainly based on the fresh milk market.
Victoria's dairy industry is internationally competitive because of our comparative advantages for milk production. Victoria's temperate climate and natural resources enable year-round grazing of quality pastures grown using relatively low cost irrigation water or with rainfall alone.
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport, and Resources (DEDJTR) scientists use gene modification, molecular marker technology and genomics as research tools in the development of improved pastures for more efficient production, better quality and cleaner environment.
DEDJTR scientists have identified ryegrass genes encoding the key enzymes involved in the synthesis of lignin (a complex organic polymer that makes plant cell walls 'woody'). Scientists are now developing genetically modified grasses with improved herbage quality by altering the lignification of cell walls.
Genetic modification techniques are being used to reduce the production of pollen allergens in perennial ryegrass, potentially improving the quality of life for 1.8 million Australians who suffer from hayfever and seasonal asthma. This research is currently in the laboratory phase.
White clover is being genetically modified for resistance to alfalfa mosaic virus and to enable improved performance under drought conditions. This virus affects clover yield and causes an annual loss in Victorian milk production of $20 million. DEDJTR is currently undertaking small-scale field evaluation trials of genetically modified white clover. Pending regulatory approval, these improved genetically modified cultivars could be available within a decade.
DEDJTR scientists are also using state-of-the-art genomics technologies to identify key agronomy genes in native and exotic grasses and legumes. This program aims to improve pasture plant characteristics for the benefit of grazing industries.
DEDJTR scientists are developing genomics technologies for increased genetic gain and improved milk production in dairy cattle. Scientists are identifying specific genes and genetic markers to either modify or select for traits associated with milk yield and composition, lactation persistency and sensitivity to nutritional status. These genetic markers identified that code for increased production are being used by dairy producers to breed better-performing cows. At some future time research may lead to genetically modified dairy cattle that produce milk with increased amounts of casein protein, thereby increasing the value of their milk.
Other animal research beyond dairy
Scientists are also identifying molecular markers for selecting important quality and production efficiency traits in beef cattle to improve competitiveness and the sustainability of beef production.
DEDJTR is developing the first Australian research initiative into the discovery of novel proteins. The application of the new biotechnology of proteomics has been applied in pilot studies to discover new proteins and bio-markers for beef quality.
DEDJTR is also involved in contract provision of facilities for preparation and housing of pigs for a medical research program investigating xenotransplantation. This also includes the use of in vitro cell culture models to assess the potential for antioxidants to modify fat deposition in humans, pigs and cattle.
Collaborators and partners in dairy biotechnology research
- Dairy Futures Cooperative Research Centre
- Dairy Australia
- Beef Cooperative Research Centre
- Sheep Cooperative Research Centre
- Genetics Australia
- Meat & Livestock Australia
- AgResearch NZ
- Agriseeds Holdings
- Centre for Animal Biotechnology, Melbourne University
- Heska Corporation, USA