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Genetic technologies to reduce methane emissions from Australian beef cattle - Department of Agriculture Ref No 01200.044

Project start date: 20 September 2012
Project end date: 18 September 2015
Publication date: 01 August 2015
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: National
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This project has delivered tools and knowledge to assist producers to breed productive, lower emissions cattle, using validated methodologies that will assist them to earn CFI credits.

Genetic merit of methane emissions can now be described by estimated breeding values and costed into profit indexes in BREEDPLAN®. These include feed-associated methane, improved feed efficiency, and methane differences at same feed intake. Economic weights have been modelled with varying carbon prices. Industry recording of methane production by cattle has been initiated and is on-going. Early results show genetic variation in methane traits.

The project has produced the first and most comprehensive estimates of genetic parameters in the world for methane traits in beef cattle. The results indicate that selection for reduced methane yield would lead to reduced emissions without impacting productivity.  The expected selection response per year for methane traits was 0.4% to 0.5% of the mean for these traits – suggesting 10 years of selection could lead to a 4%  t0 5% reduction in methane yield using DNA-based genomic breeding values.  This compares favourably with, milk yield in dairy cattle, a much easier trait to measure, where roughly a 1.5% gain per year is achieved.

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Primary researcher: NSW Department of Industry & Investment