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.

What is enteric fermentation?

The rumen: One of the most efficient fibre decomposing systems

The rumen first evolved 50 million years ago, giving mammals access to plant foods they would other not be able to digest.

The rumen is the first and largest part of the multi-chambered stomach of grass eating ruminant animals.  It acts as a fermentation vat where microbes break down plant cellulose into smaller compounds that deliver energy to the animal. This process is known as enteric fermentation.


Inside the anaerobic (oxygen starved) conditions of the rumen, a complex and highly apated microbiome has evolved that includes different types of microbes:

  • bacteria
  • archaea
  • fungi
  • protozoa

The majority of these microbes live in symbiosis with the ruminant animal. The microbes partially ferment the feed which generates energy for themselves and delivers volatile fatty acids, water soulable vitamins and high quality proteins to the animal. In turn, the animal host maintains oxygen free conditions in the rumen and provides an ideal environment for the microbes to thrive.

P44129 - Rumen function diagram FA.jpg

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