Seeking grazing personalities

Is it possible to genetically select deer according to their grazing personality?

In Business2 Minutes
Charlie Bennett (left) and Bryan Thompson with a GPS tracking collar.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO GENETICALLY SELECT DEER according to their grazing personality?

That’s the end point question Invermay research associate Bryan Thompson is hoping to answer in his three-year PhD project.

At the heart of the project will be 200 hinds/stags fitted with specially developed GPS collars to track and monitor their grazing behaviour in different landscapes.

By way of explanation Thompson likened his fast and furious guzzle and go eating habits to that of a red deer on the flat, whereas his research colleague Jamie Ward was more of a forager suited to the extensive hill country.

If it was possible to genetically identify the different grazing personalities of deer it would mean farmers could pick and match them according to terrain for more efficient utilisation of feed.

The tracking collars which took two years to design and cost about $70 each were designed by research associate Charlie Bennett. The wifi collars, with rechargeable battery, include an accelerometer to capture foraging behaviour in detail.

It will take about three years to prove and identify grazing personalities before moving on to the next step of trying to develop a genetic marker for such behaviour.

Thomson’s research mirrors a Lincoln University project that looked at the grazing personalities of Hereford cattle on Canterbury farms.

The research is funded by AgResearch and DINZ.