The Rumen Pangenome Program, led by Professor Vercoe, focuses on sheep and the extent to which genetics can be used to reduce methane emissions and improve feed efficiency. The program is part of a global network of institutions and organisations using cutting-edge ‘-omics’ technologies to untangle the relationship between the animal and the rumen.

The emphasis of the program is on ruminant gastrointestinal microbial ecosystems, or microbiomes, and how they are controlled by the host animal and by the diet consumed.  The knowledge gained in this program will also be valuable more generally for improving productivity and product quality from ruminants.

With teams working on associated projects in New Zealand, the United States and Europe, the Rumen Pangenome Program is part of a global network of institutions and organisations addressing this complex interrelationship between the genetics of the animal, its environment, and the microbial population that inhabits its rumen. These projects will utilise state-of-the-art ‘–omics’ technologies to generate the large datasets required to untangle the relationships between the animal and the rumen.

As Professor Vercoe says: “It has to be a global, collaborative effort where information is shared to try and piece these things together”; and indeed, while the program is expected to inform farmers and agricultural policy here in Australia, the results will have a global impact on methane emissions and productivity of ruminants through its application in both developed and developing countries.

Program partners include the University of New England, University of Queensland and Murdoch University, CSIRO and State Departments of Agriculture in QLD, NSW, Victoria and WA.