Methane Research Programme

The NZAGRC methane programme is jointly planned and funded in partnership with the PGgRc and aligns with existing MPI programmes funded through SLMACC and New Zealand funding in support of the Global Research Alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases. It aims to reduce emissions by directly targeting the methane producing methanogens through the discovery of small molecule inhibitors and vaccines and indirectly through feeding and changes in animal phenotype. 


  • Breeding: Research to understand the genetics of host control of ruminant methane emissions, which aims to develop genetic and genomic selection technologies to reduce methane yield and intensity in sheep. The current stage of the programme involves the development and dissemination of practical tools for selection for lowered emissions. A major part of maximising impact and uptake is to explore relative economic value from increased production and potential increased feed utilisation associated with lowered methane
  • Vaccine (jointly supported by PGgRc): A prototype vaccine (which after further development is aimed at producing a vaccine targeted at reducing methane emissions in cattle and sheep by 20%) is being formulated with the help of a commercial partner
  • Inhibitors (previously jointly funded but now fully funded by PGgRc): Research to develop cost-effective inhibitors that reduce methane emissions by at least 20% in sheep and cattle—without reducing productivity—is now being developed, with a view to bring the technology to market
  • Modelling: A tool to help scientists in the NZAGRC/PGgRc programme to develop hypotheses and predict responses in methane formation is in its final stages
Current progress and research stories

The current objectives within the NZAGRC methane programme have made significant progress this year, with the sheep breeding programme getting closer to delivering breeding values to the national flock.

Feeding diets with fodder beet decreased methane emissions from dry and lactating dairy cows in grazing systems

Jonker Arjan, Scobie David, Dynes Robyn, Edwards Grant, De Klein Cecile, Hague Helen, McAuliffe Russel, Taylor Anna, Knight Trevor, Waghorn Garry (2017) Feeding diets with fodder beet decreased methane emissions from dry and lactating dairy cows in grazing systems. Animal Production Science 57, 1445-1450.

Fodder beet (Beta vulgaris L.) has a very high readily fermentable carbohydrate concentration, which could affect rumen fermentation and reduce enteric methane (CH4) emissions. The objective of the current study was to estimate CH4 emissions from dry dairy cows grazing either fodder beet supplemented with perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.)-dominated pasture silage (6 kg DM/cow/day; FB+Sil) or forage kale (Brassica oleracea L.) supplemented with barley (Hordeum vulgareL.) straw (3 kg DM/cow/day; kale+Str; dry cows, Experiment 1), and from dairy cows in early lactation grazing perennial ryegrass-dominated pasture alone (pasture) or supplemented with fodder beet bulbs (3 kg DM/cow/day; past+FB; lactating cows; Experiment 2). Methane measurements were performed using GreenFeed units (C-Lock Inc., Rapid City, SD, USA) for 40 days in August–September 2015 (Experiment 1) and for 22 days in November–December 2015 (Experiment 2), from 45 and 31 Holstein–Friesian × Jersey dairy cows in Experiments 1 and 2, respectively. Dry cows grazing FB+Sil in Experiment 1 produced 18% less CH4 (g/day) and had 28% lower CH4 yield (g/kg DM intake; P < 0.001) than did cows grazing kale+Str. Lactating cows grazing past+FB in Experiment 2 produced 18% less CH4 and had 16% lower CH4 intensity (g/kg fat and protein-corrected milk production; P < 0.01) than did cows grazing pasture alone, while milk production and composition were similar for the two groups. In conclusion, feeding fodder beet at ~50% and 20% of the diet of dry and lactating dairy cows in pastoral systems can mitigate CH4 emissions.

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