It is possible to breed cattle that emit less methane.
The genetics of cattle have a strong effect on the composition of microorganisms in the rumen of the ruminant animal, according to an international group of scientists in Science Advances.
“We have shown that the type and level of methane-producing microbes in cattle is largely governed by the genetic composition of the animal. This means that we can select cattle for breeding that are less likely to have methane-producing bacteria in the rumen”, said John Williams, Adelaide. Professor at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, one of the leaders of the study.
Ruminants are a major producer of this greenhouse gas, responsible for 37% of human methane emissions. A single cow emits an average of 70-120 kilograms of methane per year and nowadays around 1.5 billion cattle are bred worldwide – read Phys.org’s scientific news portal.
The researchers analyzed the microbiomy of a thousand cow’s rumen samples, measured their feed consumption, methane emissions, how much milk they gave, and other biochemical characteristics. Only dairy cows were included in the study, but the inheritance of the type of microbes in the rumen is similar to that of cattle.
“We already knew that changing the diet could reduce methane emissions. But changing genetics is much more important, so we can breed cows that emit less and less methane,” Professor Williams explained.
He added that the cultivation of low methane cows also depends on other aspects, taking into account changes in milk quality and resistance to disease.
The researchers found a correlation between the effectiveness of the cow’s microbiome and its milk production capacity.