Climate smart cattle breeding

Climate smart cattle breeding

Organisatie-onderdeel

WR-cap AF

Projectcode

LWV19155

MMIP

Landbouw, Water, Voedsel>B. Klimaatneutrale landbouw en voedselproductie>B1. Emissiereductie methaan veehouderij

Startdatum

01/01/20

Einddatum

31/12/23

Samenvatting

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.

Doel van het project

In Climate Smart Cattle Breeding, our vision is that farmers should be supported in reducing the environmental footprint of their farm by offering them multiple mitigation tools. Animal breeding is one of the important mitigation tools. Climate Smart Cattle Breeding aims to phenotype a large Dutch population of dairy cows for methane and to develop the innovations needed to enable Dutch dairy farmers to utilize animal breeding to reduce methane emissions.

Relatie met missie (Motivatie)

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, 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. Technical solutions to reduce enteric methane emissions have been, and continue to be, extensively researched (e.g., feed additives or manure digesters). Animal breeding that exploits natural animal variation in methane emissions is an additional mitigation strategy that is cost-effective, permanent, and cumulative. Selective breeding can be an option as variation in emission is heritable. Breeding can also easily be included in the day-to-day herd management at low costs. Although current selection strategies are already contributing to reduced emissions per kg milk, a considerable improvement can be achieved by incorporating direct selection on methane observations. Direct selection is expected to be more effective and the first results of our simulation study demonstrate a reduction of ~1% per year methane emissions per kg of milk can be achieved with selective breeding, accumulating to 29% in 2050. However, currently direct selection on methane is not possible because large scale measurements on methane emissions are lacking. Previous work has shown that sensor technologies enable large scale recording of methane from individual cows. Therefore, the next step to enable direct selection on methane emissions is a large scale collection of methane data on commercial dairy farms. The aim of Climate Smart Cattle Breeding is the development of improved breeding tools that enable Dutch dairy farmers to utilize animal breeding opportunities to reduce methane emissions. This way the number of mitigation options available for farmers can be extended.

Geplande acties

Climate Smart Cattle Breeding will deliver tools, techniques and methodologies that optimally measure enteric methane of dairy cattle. Climate Smart Cattle Breeding will combine phenotypic and genomic data to enable an efficient reduction in enteric methane emission for the Dutch dairy sector by genetic selection while maintaining a good health, fertility, longevity, production and milk quality. These innovations will ensure that the Netherlands will be the first country to publish national breeding values for reduced enteric methane of dairy cattle worldwide.
The tool that is used in the Netherlands to calculate the carbon footprint on individual farms is the Kringloopwijzer. The Kringloopwijzer calculates the emission per litre of milk on a farm based on input of on-farm specific data. The Kringloopwijzer will be amended to ensure that the genetic merit of the herd is incorporated in the calculated methane emission of the herd and in the resulting carbon footprint. This way, farmers can show and prove that they reduce their environmental footprint.