ALL demand signs may be pointing towards an optimistic future for beef but the question hanging over the industry's head is where will the world view settle on the carbon intensity of cattle. That's what has driven the NSW Angus seedstock operation owned by Twynam back to genetics to unlock greater feed efficiency potential. Twynam is a name synonymous with cutting-edge agriculture. At the turn of the century, the Kahlbetzer family-owned company boasted 22 broadacre cropping, livestock and citrus holdings and at its peak Twynam's Colly Farms cotton growing and ginning traded almost a quarter of the national crop. While much of Twynam's ag interests have been sold off, chief executive officer Johnny Kalhbetzer - who says cattle were always his preferred interest - has been breeding stud Angus cattle and composites at two Marulan district properties, Wingello Park and Johnniefelds. They run 800 breeders and are expanding. Three years of testing all their progeny have shown the animals Twynam has bred for feed efficiency consume 20 per cent less for the same weight gains. Across any herd, that's a big production benefit. "More importantly, a more efficient animal consumes less grass and less grain and science says that will mean less carbon emissions," Mr Kalhbetzer said. "There are two aspects here. We are constantly hearing about how feedlotting cattle takes grain from the human feed chain and while there are a lot of warts with that argument, if we run with what consumers are thinking we have to make feed efficiency gains. "Breeding for feed efficiency means producing a more sustainable animal with regards to food security and less carbon emissions. "Both of these are leading arguments against animal agriculture around the world." ALSO IN CATTLE: Twynam's Marulan holdings encompass 1400 hectares of improved pastures incorporating all plant types - grasses, medics, legumes, brassica and herbs. Regenerative practices have been implemented, including rotational grazing, multi species pasture and the production of sprays from on-property worm farms that are applied to improve soil biology. Mineral chemicals are used, only for the control of woody weeds the livestock don't graze. Mr Kalhbetzer says a focus on feed efficiency in breeding ties in perfectly with regenerative practices. Twynam currently has 330 registered Angus stud cows. "In Twynam's larger days, in the 1990s, we ran a predominantly Santa Gertrudis herd north of the Riverina and pure blacks in the Riverina," Mr Kalhbetzer said. "We had inherent infertility issues with the Santa herd and implemented a composite by introducing Gelbvieh and Red Angus to address that and also improve carcase quality." Remembering how well those composites performed encouraged their introduction to the new Twynam cattle operation a year ago. "If you look north of the NSW border, the majority of breeders are doing more crossbreeding than we've ever seen in history," Mr Kalhbetzer said. When the first calves from the composites are weaned, the plan is to assess which will be the best commercial markets to target. In the short term, most heifers will be retained to build numbers. Twynam started testing male and female progeny for feed efficiency in conjunction with University of New England researchers four years ago. "Feed efficiency has a long history with us - we've been thinking about it for 30 years but the challenge has been it was very hard to measure," Mr Kalhbetzer said. "With the introduction of new technology, it can now be done on a viable commercial basis." This year, Twynam invested in it's own on-farm equipment to test, sourced from Brazilian company Intergrado. Small feed troughs are set up in a row, each one with weigh scales. NLIS tags are registered as the animal approaches the troughs and the number of kilograms consumed is tracked, with the data run against its weight. Feed efficiency measurements are given as both a feed conversion ratio and net feed intake. "Within the pen, we can determine which animals have the best NFI,"Mr Kalhbetzer said. "Some people say feed efficiency as measured this way doesn't translate to grass-fed but there is now enough research to say it does - anecdotally that is certainly backed up. "The pigs and chooks have been doing this for a very long time with amazing production gains but they have dropped the ball in regard to eating quality. "Whilst we are concentrating on feed efficiency we also breed for meat quality attributes. "There is no question you can do both." There was no clear answer as to whether premiums would flow for feed efficient cattle, Mr Kalhbetzer said. "I believe we will be pushed into a corner where we have to do more. It may not be a question of being paid more but rather having to do this to be paid at all. "It won't be next week, but that is what is coming. "We have a plan for progeny testing our preferred sires and we are actively looking for commercial breeders who would like to join us in our journey." Twynam expect to have a decent wedge of their annual September sale offered with data on feed efficiency by next year. "What is really interesting is there is no way of determining the most feed efficient animals just by looking at them," Mr Kalhbetzer said. "We have realised there is little verified feed efficiency data in the industry so finding elite animals has its challenges." For all the big news in beef, sign up below to receive our Red Meat newsletter.