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DairyNZ's Less-Methane team is exploring solutions to reduce methane emissions on New Zealand farms. While technologies for cutting methane are effective abroad, the challenge lies in adapting them to New Zealand's pasture-based systems. Some promising methods include using methane inhibitors like 3NOP and Seaweed, employing delivery systems such as Zeddy units, and administering inhibitors to calves early on. The team also focuses on accurate national methane accounting to reward farmers' mitigation efforts. Other projects involve a methanogen vaccine, selective breeding for low methane animals, research into low methane forages, and genetic studies to produce less methane-intensive cattle. Farmers will be given choices to select the method fitting their farm's needs.
The Less-Methane team at DairyNZ are working on several projects to develop viable solutions that reduce methane emissions on NZ farms.
There are many methane mitigating technologies that are proven to work in farm-systems overseas. The key challenge we have is making these proven technologies work on New Zealand pasture-based farm systems.
Evaluating promising technologies for methane reduction and delivery of these methane inhibitors at the herd level.
Ensuring the NZ inventory is up to date and accurate so that farmers are rewarded.
Providing technical leadership and farm systems knowledge that focuses on Greenhouse Gas reduction
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to methane mitigation on-farm, which is why our research team are working with farmers to help create a suite of methane mitigating 'packages' that could be relevant to a wide range of farm systems.
From here farmers will have the freedom to choose what method they would like to implement to reduce methane emissions, which they can choose based on their farm system and what they believe will be the most effective for them.
This work aims to reduce total ruminant methane emissions by at least 30 percent. The vaccine forms antibodies to attack methane-producing microbes called methanogens. It is currently at the laboratory testing stage.
Selective breeding (low methane animals)
Research has confirmed that there is a potential genetic basis for reducing methane emissions in dairy cows, beef cattle and sheep. Lower emitting animals have a different rumen environment which produces less methane per unit of feed eaten. Breeding for this trait could result in a potential reduction of between three and eight percent per year over a 20-year timeframe.
Low methane forages
Research is underway to investigate forages that can reduce methane emissions and nitrogen losses. Identifying and validating these feeds will mean recommended feeding regimes can be developed based on current and new feeding options – for use in different farm systems. The work includes exploring potential methane reductions from feeding plantain.
DairyNZ is involved in research-led and funded by NZAGRC looking to breed low-methane cows. NZAGRC is currently funding a programme to identify bulls from CRV and LIC that produce less methane per unit of feed eaten. The next stage will be to investigate the performance of their progeny. Genetic selection for low methane-yielding animals has already been successful in sheep, such that a flock has been generated that produces approximately 10 percent less methane per unit feed eaten than other sheep.
Methane is a big topic and it’s a pressing concern for our sector. We need to reduce our emissions, while improving profitability – but how? In this episode, we dig into the research DairyNZ’s doing in this area. Senior research scientist Dr Jane Kay, who leads the Less-Methane Team, joins us to explain what tools offer the most promise and when those tools might be available to adopt on farms.