Livestock improvement, animal health, nutrition and welfare

Defining new phenotypes for forage and crop by-products improvement based on rumen function and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

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Livestock are a fast-growing, high-value agricultural subsector, accounting for 15–80% of GDP in low- and middle-income countries. In Africa and Asia, demand for livestock products is expected to grow 200% by 2030. Ruminants can use feed substrates such as crop residues and forages not otherwise nutritionally available to humans. However, such systems are associated with higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions and low productivity, particularly in the Global South. There is significant literature that identifies rumen utilisation as the key to efficient use of forages and by-products whilst minimising GHG emissions. Whilst it is possible to measure such properties, the lack of high throughput techniques has limited their use as effective phenotyping to improve plant breeding targets.

By creating a partnership between SRUC and ILRI, this project will combine expertise in plant breeding and ruminant nutrition within the partnership to develop and exploit new phenotypes for forages and crop residues in ruminant production systems. The added value from the partnership comes from the combination of a well-established forage improvement program and animal nutrition capability with ongoing work to develop new screening techniques to characterise fermentation in the rumen, with a focus on greenhouse gas emissions.


The project aims to develop feed stuffs that allow animals to meet their genetic potential whilst providing the tools to identify the genes and genetic signatures to develop feedstuffs that minimise the environmental footprint of ruminant agriculture.

The project aims to address the following question: Is it possible to use using plant breeding or genetic engineering approaches to develop ruminant animal feeds that maximise productivity whilst minimising the environmental impact?

The problem

UK science and CGIAR

UK scientific institution


CGIAR partner

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Where the research teams will work

SRUC and ILRI teams will work together in Kenya and Ethiopia.