A $55 million Victorian project will look at the environmental footprint of the Australian cow.

Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas has launched the second phase of DairyBio21-26.

Ms Thomas said the five-year research partnership between industry and government aimed to address many of the issues facing dairy farmers.

“DairyBio21-26 will support our world-leading scientists to meet the challenges facing our dairy industry head-on and to deliver practical solutions to our dairy farmers as they adjust to operating under a changing climate,” Ms Thomas said.

DairyBio21-26 would support scientists to meet this challenge, targeting an additional value of $200 per cow each year for Australian dairy herds by 2040.

This would be achieved through genetic improvements resulting in cows that lived longer and produce fewer emissions – with the flow-on benefits of reduced costs.

She told a Rural Press Club of Victoria webinar the state’s dairy industry led the nation, accounting for 77 per cent of Australia’s dairy exports – valued at $2.1 billion.

But Ms Thomas said as a result of climate change and other regulatory and trade changes, Dairy Australia had estimated farmers would need to increase productivity by 1.5 per cent, per year, to maintain profitability.

The new investment built on the funding, spent since 2016, which had uncovered the key genetic traits farmers needed to target, to ensure their cows produced fewer methane emissions.

“It will ensure farms have the tools and information they need to implement the findings of this research, on farm,” Ms Thomas said.

The new research was intended to provide tangible benefits for farmers, so they could raise cows that produced more milk and healthier calves, with fewer emissions.

It was part of the government’s plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

“Farmers are at the frontline, when it comes to experiencing the impact of climate change and I know they are ready to be at the forefront, when it comes to tackling the challenges,” Ms Thomas said.

“Many are already doing so.”

She said she was concerned some other states and the Commonwealth saw agriculture as being in the “too hard basket’ when it came to climate change.

“We know international markets are looking for a point of difference in products, and our premium offerings will be attractive to them, ensuring our farmers are not only competitive, but world leading,” she said.

“The EU carbon tax is a stark reminder, and a warning to Australia, if we don’t cut emissions, we will lose exports.”

She said it was disappointing to see the stance taken by the federal National Party, when it came to agriculture and climate change.

“We must embrace the opportunities that taking real aciton on climate change will provide to the industry.”