The research, funded by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), measures methane emissions from the burps of young bulls set to father the next generation of New Zealand’s dairy cows.
Results from year 1, where the feed intake and methane emissions from 281 bulls were measured, found there is genetic variation in the amount of methane emitted after accounting for the feed eaten by the bulls.
LIC Chief Scientist Richard Spelman says these results are a big step forward for the research.
“The amount of methane a bull or cow produces directly relates to the amount of food it eats - generally speaking the more an animal eats, the more methane it will emit.
“But after accounting for differences in the bulls’ feed intake, we’re still seeing genetic variation in their methane emissions, proving genetics do play a role. We have a sliding scale from bulls that are low-methane emitters to bulls that are on the higher end. This is the variation we were wanting to see and we’re excited to use it to our advantage.”
Although the research is in the early stages, Spelman says the results show promise to help farmers meet environmental challenges.
“This methane research is a long-term project but it has the potential to make a real difference to farmers in the future by providing another tool to reduce their farm emissions.
“New Zealand farmers are striving to meet the challenge of being profitable and sustainable, and research like this will help ensure reducing a farm’s emissions doesn’t have to come at the cost of reducing its milk production.”
CRV Grass-Fed Genetics Manager Peter van Elzakker says it’s pleasing to see that the first-year results of our trial align with the company’s methane trial work with Wageningen University in the Netherlands.