Boosting dairy farm resilience with precision screening 

Published: May 31, 2024

The UK Agri-Tech Centre and Antler Bio are working on a groundbreaking project aimed at improving the productivity, sustainability and efficiency of UK dairy enterprises by monitoring the gene expression in a herd for a tailored approach to farming. 

The innovative EPIHERD project aims to enable farmers to tailor their farming system to suit the genetic make-up of their herd, using epigenomics and sophisticated data analysis. The primary objective of this development is to optimise the performance and wellbeing of a herd, and therefore make dairy farming more sustainable. 

The Innovate UK Smart Grant funding will support the development of an artificial intelligence (AI)-platform which will provide farmers with information on the prominence of specific genes that can be influenced by environmental factors: In essence, monitoring gene expression within a herd. 

Data and tech driving productivity in dairy farming 

Using the genetic data provided through this platform, farmers will be able to alter factors within their control, such as rations or housing environment in response to information provided, which in turn has the potential to lead to improved productivity. 

The UK Agri-Tech Centre is supporting project partner Antler Bio by using its networks to ‘stress test’ the technology and working with farmers and industry to help shape the development of a user-friendly, artificial intelligence digital platform and take the technology from concept to practical use. 

Accelerating innovation with collaboration 

Several discovery sessions were hosted to engage with the dairy sector, providing an opportunity for farmers and industry specialists to have an open discussion about the functionality and capability of the platform. Throughout the meetings there was also keen interest in finding out more about the science of epigenomics – does an epigenomic profile change over time? Is the platform aimed at breeding or management? 

With an understanding of what farmers use to benchmark their dairy enterprise, the project is establishing the challenges that lie ahead as the industry strives towards net zero, knowing that the EPIHERD technology can and will help alleviate some of the pressures. 

Maintaining profitability while reducing emissions is essential for sustainable farming, especially if penalties are enforced as sustainability objectives gain traction within the industry. Therefore, using innovative technology like EPIHERD, designed to maximise performance efficiencies, will be hugely beneficial to dairy enterprises. 

For more information about the EPIHERD project, or find out how the UK Agri-Tech Centre can support your innovation ambitions, please contact