Methane vaccine

The NZAGRC is partnering with PGgRc to develop a vaccine that reduces methane emissions from ruminant livestock.

Current projects

Project title Lead organisation/s
Development of an effective anti-methanogen vaccine AgResearch


A successful methane vaccine would trigger an animal's immune system to generate antibodies in saliva that suppress the growth and function of methane-producing microbes (methanogens) in the rumen.

image of a methanogen in the rumen

A vaccine is a highly desirable tool for reducing enteric methane emissions because it requires no farm system changes, is used infrequently, leaves no residues in products and is applicable to all ruminant farm animals.

Development of a vaccine involves:

  1. Production of a prototype vaccine that shows efficacy in respiration chambers to reduce methane emissions from either sheep or cattle
  2. Further development of a vaccine that targets a reduction in methane emission in sheep and cattle of at least 20% without affecting production
  3. Delivery of an effective vaccine to the New Zealand market.

The NZAGRC is supporting work to develop a prototype vaccine. To date, vaccination trials in sheep have not successfully reduced methane emissions. However, in vitro research has demonstrated that:

  • A vaccine can produce sufficiently high levels of antibodies in the saliva of sheep
  • These antibodies will bind onto the corresponding cell components (antigens) of methanogens in the rumen fluid, and have an effect on those cells
  • Many antigens are common to the different species and strains of methanogen
  • Antibodies will bind onto these antigens across the full range of target methanogen species, within the rumen fluid.

Research is now focused on identifying the right antigens that will inhibit the growth and function of methanogens in the rumen. In December 2019, an international panel was engaged to review the vaccine programme and confirmed the value and appropriateness of this research approach.