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Agency: Cordis | Branch: FP7 | Program: MC-ITN | Phase: FP7-PEOPLE-ITN-2008 | Award Amount: 2.17M | Year: 2009

The EU25 produce approximately 132 million tonnes of milk from 24.3 million cows on 1.76 million farm holdings. Ruminant animals account for up to 20% of the world methane production with the EU25 dairy population producing approximately 3.2 million tonnes of methane (CH4) per year. Many EU countries have specific and binding commitments relating to the reduction of GHG emissions, and all sectors of the economy are coming under increasing scrutiny in relation to their share in the overall emissions target. Little work has been done on the role of dairy cow genetics in dairy system emissions, particularly considering the role of genetics in the whole farming system, including feeding strategy and management policies (e.g., energy balance, housing periods, fertilisation and manure management). GREENHOUSEMILK will help us understand the role of energy efficiency and partitioning in the overall GHG output of dairy systems and develop innovative tools to help farmers select environmentally friendly bulls to suit their system and how to manage those bulls daughters in an appropriate manner. GREENHOUSEMILK will harness statistical and genetic tools to elucidate the genetics of emissions in dairy cattle and develop innovative and integrative tools that address the environmental impact of dairy farming, thus underpinning a high priority policy area. GREENHOUSEMILK will build on data, resources and expertise being developed in the FP7 KBBE-2007-1 funded project RobustMilk. Utilising the resources and skills from RobustMilk to address other questions is highly beneficial and synergistic and will add to the outcomes of both projects. GREENHOUSEMILK will examine: 1. causes of variation in CHG emissions in dairy cows, 2. genomic tools to help select for reduced CHG emissions, 3. integrating animal CHG emissions into farm systems models and, 4. developing selection indices that include environmental impact.

The requirement for sustainable food production is a global issue to which the EU contributes as a major livestock producer. It is critical to improve animal production efficiency while sustaining environmentally friendly milk production. More profitable dairy production requires increased milk yield, cow health, longevity and fertility; reduced environmental footprint and optimised use of inputs. These are multifactorial problems to achieve. GplusE aims to identify the genotypes controlling biological variation in the important phenotypes of dairy cows, to appreciate how these are influenced by environmental and management factors and thus allow more informed and accurate use of genomic selection. GplusE will link new genomic data in dairy cows to a comprehensive array of phenotypic information going well beyond those existing traits recorded by dairy breeding organisations. It will develop systems that will focus herd and cow management on key time points in production that have a major influence on the rest of the productive cycle including efficiency, environment, physiological status, health, fertility and welfare. This will significantly advance the science, efficiency and management practices in dairy production well beyond the current state-of-the art. The major bioinformatics element of the proposal will illuminate the bovine genome and ensure a reverse flow of information to annotate human and other mammalian genomes; it will ensure training of animal scientists (PhDs & Postdocs) to a high skill level in the use of bioinformatics. The end result of this project will be a comprehensive, integrated identification of genomic-phenotypic associations relevant to dairy production. This information will be translated into benefits for animal breeding and management that will considerably improve sustainable dairy production. It will provide basic biological information into the mechanisms by which genotype, environment and their interaction influence performance.

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