Lower methane production through breeding

Methane emissions release both energy and  a potent greenhouse gas. VikingGenetics is conducting research with the aim of reducing methane emissions – not only to help the environment but also to improve dairy cow efficiency. Research into methane emissions has been pursued in parallel with research into feed efficiency.

Feed efficiency and methane emissions

To date, over 5,000 cows have been measured for methane emissions. This has been done to enable genetic analysis of the trait. It is already known that on average 6% of the energy a cow consumes is released as methane, but this can vary from 2% to 12%. If some of this variation is due to genetics, we will be able to select for lower methane emissions. Lower methane emissions will mean that more energy is available for milk production, reproduction and immunity.

Genetic relationship confirmed

The results show that there is genetic variation for methane emissions. Approximately 20% of the total variance is due to genetics, and that this is in the same magnitude as many of the other traits we currently select for in NTM. The relationship with other traits such as reproduction and health has also been investigated. The conclusion drawn so far is that there are no negative consequences in selecting for lower methane emissions in these traits. Cows with high genetic merit for milk production also have higher methane emissions but at the same time better efficiency. However, this needs further investigation

New index

VikingGenetics aims to develop an index for methane emissions. This index could be registered in the NTM, but only if the index offers an economic value which is not the case today. Farmers would not gain any benefit from selecting for lower methane emissions or to feed for lower methane emissions. This economic value could come from improved efficiency. If methane were used as an indicator for feed efficiency, it would have an indirect economic value.

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