The identification and control of greenhouse gases (GHG) is a key part of sustainability. An assessment of where GHGs originate shows that enteric emissions from the cow make up a significant part of total on-farm GHG production, along with manure storage and feed production.
A recent study by researchers in the U.K (Breider, Wall and Garnsworthy) showed that it is possible to select for cows that have lower methane production. In the study methane production from 184 Holstein cows was measured during robot milking over a four-month period. Milk yield and body weight measurements were also obtained.
Heritability for methane production ranged from 0.12 to 0.45, while milk yield ranged from 0.49 to 0.54.
“The positive genetic correlation between methane production and milk yield indicates that care needs to be taken when genetically selecting for lower methane production to avoid a decrease in milk yield,” researchers say. “However, this study shows that methane production is moderately heritable and therefore progress through genetic selection is possible.”