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Developing cows that reduce methane emissions

Semex UK, thinks it can reduce methane production by 20–30% by 2050 by breeding cows that make less methane.

The company has been working with Lactanet, a Canadian company that keeps track of milk and looks at its genetics, and the University of Guelph to find a genetic way to stop methane emissions.

Over the past 5 years, Canada’s milk-recording organisations have collected more than 13 million milk mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy records, of which 700,000 were analysed by Lactanet geneticists to predict methane emissions from milk-recorded cows across Canada.
Methane must be cut by 2050.

The results showed that genetic selection can be used to cut methane emissions by a lot. Scientists found that there was an 85% correlation between the methane that was collected and the methane that was predicted. This means that there is a genetic way to reduce methane. This is because, along with the microbes, the cow’s genes also affect how much methane is made in the rumen.

The trait is 23% heritable, which is similar to how production and immune response can be predicted with 70–80% accuracy. It has no effect on yields or fat and protein levels, so Semex said at its annual conference in Glasgow that methane production could be cut by 20–30% by 2050, depending on how much selection is done.

Semex’s vice president of research and innovation, Dr. Michael Lohuis, said that the study was important: “We know that genetics has a major role to play in reducing emissions because it is the main way dairy farmers can produce more outputs with less emissions from fewer inputs. But this technology takes the contribution of genetics to the next level.”
Consider methane when you breed cows.

Semex and Lactanet are now putting the technology on the market all over the world. In April, Lactanet will publish a value that breeders can use to reduce methane emissions from their herds. From then on, dairy farmers will only be able to get a methane index for all tested females through Semex Elevate. This will let them include methane in their breeding plans and get to a lower methane herd that much faster.

Drew Sloan, vice president of Corporate Development for Semex, said that methane is the world’s biggest problem right now. He said, “In many countries, agriculture, especially cattle, is blamed for excess emissions, and many developing countries have passed laws that aim for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” This is another way to lower emissions on farms, which will help reach that goal.

In response to the announcement at the Glasgow conference, Stuart Roberts, a former vice president of the NFU, said, “This is great news. Society expects us as an industry to do our part to fight climate change. I think it’s a real breakthrough that we now have a genetic tool that can help us a lot on this journey.”

The UK government has been putting pressure on the industry to reduce methane emissions, and last year it asked for information on feed products that reduce methane emissions. Feed products that stop methane from being made could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, especially from cattle kept in barns. Some of the things that might be in these products are things that stop methane from being made, seaweeds, essential oils, organic acids, probiotics, and antimicrobials.

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