Climate smart cattle breeding

Projecttitel: Climate smart cattle breeding
Projectnummer: LWV19155
Missie: Klimaatneutrale landbouw en voedselproductie
MMIP: B1 - Emissiereductie methaan veehouderij
Looptijd: 2020 – 2023
Projectleider: Yvette de Haas

The idea of this project is that the development and implementation of improved breeding tools help Dutch dairy farmers to better utilize opportunities to reduce methane emissions. This way the suite of mitigation strategies available for farmers can be extended, next to strategies related to nutrition and manure management. 
Aim of this project is to further develop breeding options and to implement breeding as an additional successful option for dairy farmers to reduce the carbon footprint of milk.

A lower carbon footprint of dairy products has become a key element of sustainable dairy production. As methane emission of dairy cows is the main component of this carbon footprint, and the Dutch agriculture is facing the challenge of a 2.1 Mton reduction of methane emissions by 2030, and even further by 2050, farmers urgently need efficient and cost-effective options to reduce methane emissions. Some solutions to reduce enteric methane emissions have been extensively researched; e.g., feed additives or manure digesters. However, the potential to exploit the natural animal variation in methane emissions by animal breeding has become clear only recently. Selective breeding as an additional mitigation strategy is cost-effective, permanent, and cumulative, and can also easily be included in the day-to-day herd management at low direct costs. Initial results were used to simulate the potential of animal breeding, and indicate that a reduction of methane emissions per kg of milk of ~1% each year can be achieved, accumulating to a 29% lower methane emission in 2050. 
To enable selective breeding as a mitigation tool, major innovations are needed in four areas:
1. Large-scale automated recording of methane of individual cows, 
2. Breeding value estimation models 
3. Knowledge of the impact of selection for lower-emitting cows (also on other traits) and 
4. Implementation in practical and broadly accepted tools. 

A large population (100 farms with 150 cows) phenotyped for individual methane forms the basic starting point for these innovations. Based on the lessons learned in METHAGENE (COST Action FA1302), we now know that sniffers can be used to collate information on the methane concentrations of individual cows and rank them from low to high emitting. The aim of Climate Smart Cattle Breeding is to phenotype the large population and to develop the innovations needed to enable Dutch dairy farmers to utilize animal breeding to reduce methane emissions. This way the number of mitigation options available for farmers can be extended, also for an integrated approach combining nutrition and manure management.