Genetics has been identified as a means of building a long-term solution to climate change,” says Smallwood. “As an industry, if cow numbers are reduced farmers will need to improve efficiency per cow to ensure farming remains sustainable, both environmentally and economically
Research into climate friendly cows
A possible link between a bulls’ genetics and the amount of methane they produce is being investigated. If successful farmers will be able to breed cows that burp less methane per kg of feed eaten.
In 2020, a pilot trial, by CRV and LIC with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, measured feed intake and methane emissions – in the form of burps – from 20 young bulls destined to father the next generation of New Zealand’s dairy cows.
That research progressed to a much larger study where operations have scaled up to collect measurements from 300 young bulls, the full intake from CRV and LIC’s Progeny Test Scheme.
In late 2021 the first year of measurements will be completed.
If this genetic link is confirmed, farmers will ultimately be able to breed low methane-emitting cows from low methane-emitting bulls by 2026.