Cross-discipline research ups animal science outcomes
USING cross-species and cross-discipline research to boost animal science outcomes has been an ongoing focus for much of livestock scientist Dr John Black’s career.
A former CSIRO researcher, Dr Black, Warrimoo, New South Wales, left the organisation in 1996 to start his own research management company, and said there was great value in being able to “think outside the box”.
“If we look across history, all big improvements in productivity come from new technology and new technology is based on research into novel areas that leads to quantum leap changes,” he said.
“My whole thinking is based on what is limiting productivity – and thinking hard about the limiting factor.
“What is limiting? Can I fix it? Maybe they’ve already done that in another industry?
“Trying to think outside the box, something could be a ‘high risk’ in terms of broader implementation, but if there are ‘high gains’ to be had, the research may be worthwhile.”
Dr Black will be a keynote speaker at Animal Production 2016, an international biennial conference hosted by the Australian Society of Animal Production from July 4-7 in Adelaide, South Australia, presenting the Underwood Memorial Lecture on ‘Animal nutrition – past, present and future’.
“I describe myself as a reductionist biologist, being able to break research down and get to the fundamentals,” he said.
“It’s important to understand the research that is out there, and be able to put it back together into an integrated system and get it out to producers.
“Eric Underwood was a thorough investigator, a pioneer in mineral research, and as such I’ll be discussing animal nutrition, modelling and the value of cross-species, cross-discipline knowledge for advancing animal production.”
Dr Black said it was important to consider the different requirements of different species, such as protein intake and different immune responses.
Dr Black was involved with developing the AUSPIG model in the 1980s which “completely changed” the way in which nutrition was developed in the pig industry.
“It had a big impact in the formulation of diets,” he said. “It was taking knowledge and integrating it across the industry.”
Dr Black said previous research he had conducted showed return on investment in research for animal industries in Australia was several-fold less than for the cropping industries.
But he said it could be improved through better targeting of areas for research, using risk control procedures for adopting existing knowledge and through strict adherence to the scientific method.
“Major advances in the integration and adoption of knowledge and technologies by the animal industries are expected through future application of electronic technologies for the measurement, interpretation and control of processes via real-time, farm-specific, web-based systems,” he said.
“Enterprise managers can then focus on longer-term strategy rather than day-to-day operations.”
Major conference sponsors include the University of Adelaide, Meat and Livestock Australia, Primary Industries and Regions SA and JBS Australia – Southern.
Registrations for the conference close on June 20.