There is a genetic component to methane emissions, and it can be harnessed to make more environmentally conscious breeding decisions, according to research out of Canada.
Our neighboring country’s leading organization for milk recording, genetic services, and farm management, Lactanet, collected more than 13 million milk mid-infrared spectroscopy records over the course of five years. Those records were then analyzed in order to predict methane emissions, and they showed that it is possible to reduce emissions with genetic selection.
That could prove to be a valuable tool to bolster dairy’s position in a world of heightened environmental awareness where animal agriculture is often targeted for its outputs.
Lactanet will publish Methane Efficiency breeding values with the April 2023 genetic evaluations. Their work has been in partnership with Semex, and the bull stud said that with the April release, a methane index will be available for all of their Holstein sires. For genomic bulls, it is 70% reliable. Additionally, users of Semex’s Elevate program will automatically receive a methane value on all genomic-tested females.
In a statement, Semex said that genetic selection alone can reduce methane emissions by 20% to 30% by 2050. This provides another reason for a farm to genomic test its animals and a faster way to become a low-methane herd, the company continued.
Sustainability was a recurring theme at the Ontario annual meeting of Lactanet, a farmer-led organization. “It’s a balance of productivity and profitability to support economic and environmental sustainability,” said board chair Barbara Paquet.