Improved animal husbandry: Farmers take a step closer to breeding more climate-friendly cows

The good news comes after the first year of a research program by leading New Zealand artificial breeding companies LIC and CRV.

The research, funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Center (NZAGRC), measures methane emissions from the burps of young bulls intended to sire the next generation of New Zealand dairy cows.

Results from the first year, where the feed consumption and methane emissions of 281 bulls were measured, revealed that there is genetic variation in the amount of methane emitted after taking into account the feed consumed by the bulls. bulls, with the weakest bulls emitting about 15-20% less. methane than average.

LIC chief scientist Richard Spelman says the results are a big step forward for the research.

“The amount of methane a bull or cow produces is directly related to the amount of food it eats – in general, the more an animal eats, the more methane it emits.

“But after accounting for differences in the feed intake of bulls, we still see genetic variation in their methane emissions, which proves that genetics plays a role. We have a sliding scale from bulls that emit low methane (less than 18g methane/kg dry matter consumed) to higher bulls (more than 28g methane/kg dry matter consumed) This is the variation we wanted to see and we are delighted to use it to our advantage.”

Although the research is still in its early stages, Spelman says the results show promise for helping farmers meet environmental challenges.

“This methane research is a long-term project, but it has the potential to make a real difference for farmers in the future by providing another tool to reduce their agricultural emissions.

“New Zealand farmers are striving to meet the challenge of being profitable and sustainable, and research like this will help ensure that reducing a farm’s emissions does not have to come at the expense of reducing her milk production.

Grass-Fed Genetics CRV Director Peter van Elzakker says it’s nice to see the first-year results of our trial align with the company’s methane testing work with the Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

“The findings in New Zealand are a significant step forward in our work developing tools to help New Zealand dairy farmers reduce their emissions. They give us all even more confidence that genetics can be part of the solution.

Harry Clark, director of the NZAGRC, is also satisfied with these initial results.

“Livestock represents a long-term and cumulative way for farmers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Low methane breeding is now available to sheep farmers and there are positive signs that we may be able to offer the same to the dairy sector,” he said. said.

Richard Spelman says the next step in the research is to see if the genetic variation responsible for methane emissions in growing young bulls replicates in their daughters.

“This year, in partnership with Pāmu, we will breed bulls that we have identified as being high or low methane emitters. After their daughters are born, we will measure their emissions as they grow and during their first season. milking to ensure they are representative of their fathers.This is where rubber will really hit the road in our goal of providing farmers with a low methane breeding solution.

Pāmu Managing Director Mark Leslie said, “Pāmu and Focus Genetics have an important role to play in bridging the gap between science and commercialization for the benefit of industry. We are delighted to see such positive results in the first year of this trial. It is vitally important that the agricultural sector continues to move forward with its emissions reduction initiatives, and this trial is an exciting new step.

“This trial fits well with dairy beef progeny trials at Renown Farm and the Informing New Zealand Beef (INZB) progeny trial at Kepler, which build on our long-standing industry partnerships, as well than on the progress we have made in developing breeding values ​​for methane efficiency in our sheep programs.

The second year of research is now underway with the measurement of methane emissions from approximately 300 young bulls from LIC and CRV’s 2022 Sire Proving Scheme.