Dairy farmers could soon be breeding cows for lower methane emissions
New low-cost solution will identify efficient and profitable dairy cows
Ground-breaking research is set to give dairy farmers the tools to breed cows with lower methane emission has received significant funding from Science Foundation Ireland.
Teagasc researcher Dr Sinead McParland, has been awarded over €375,000 in a Starting Investigator Research Grant to develop tools to identify the most efficient and profitable cows in the national herd.
Farming accounts for 85pc of methane emissions in Ireland, as ruminant animals emit methane as a bi-product of the fermentation of food. But global demand for dairy products current exceeds supply, putting pressure on dairy herds to produce as much as possible.
According to Dr McParland efficient cows, which have higher milk solids output per unit input, are required to help meet this shortfall but the amount of research available to date is very limited.
"The research will address the seismic challenge we face to breed more efficient animals (producing more milk from less input) with a lower environmental hoof-print."
McParland said the current tools which evaluate the efficiecy of cows are very laborious and expensive to operate, so are typically only used in research centres, and the numbers of records we can attain each lactation and the number of individual animals recorded remains small.
"In order to include traits such as efficiency and emissions in our breeding programme, we need lots of unbiased data on as wide a representation of the national herd that is possible," she said.
"We will use information generated as part of routine milk recording to predict intake, efficiency and methane emissions.