Company News

Semex - Breeding The Way To Low Methane Cows

As social and political pressure continues focusing on agriculture, Semex is increasing the positive contribution breeding can make with a genetic solution to one of the world's largest environmental problems - methane. From April 2023 every dairy producer in the world will now have the chance to assess, monitor and ultimately reduce cow methane emissions, exclusively by using Elevate - Semex’s genomic test.

Semex scientists have been working with Lactanet (Canada’s milk recording and genetic evaluation company) to find a genetic solution to methane emissions, explains Dr Michael Lohuis, Semex Vice President Research and Innovation. “For over five years Canada's milk recording organizations, now under Lactanet, collected over 13 million milk mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy records. Over seven hundred thousand first lactation MIR records were analyzed by Lactanet geneticists in order to predict methane emissions for milk-recorded cows across Canada. The results showed that you can substantially reduce methane emissions with genetic selection.”

The scientists found that there was an 85% correlation between collected methane and predicted methane, with the conclusion being that there is a genetic way to lower methane. This is because the genetics of the cow also has an impact on methane production in the rumen, as well as the microbes.

The trait is 23% heritable, which is comparable to production and immune response with 70% reliability. Overall Semex estimate a 20-30% reduction in methane production by 2050 depending on the selection intensity.

“This is really significant,” says Dr Lohuis. “We know that genetics has a major role to play in reducing emissions because it is the main way dairy farmers can produce ‘more outputs from fewer inputs with less emissions’. But this new technology takes the contribution from genetics to the next level.”

Semex and Lactanet are now bringing the technology to market on a global front, with Lactanet publishing a value breeders can use to reduce methane emissions in their herds from this April. From April a methane index on all tested females will be available exclusively via Semex’ Elevate, allowing dairy farmers to factor in methane into their breeding policy and move that much faster to a lower methane herd.

"Right now, methane is the global enemy," says Drew Sloan, Semex Vice President Corporate Development.

"In many countries the proverbial finger is pointed at agriculture, specifically cattle, as a culprit of excess emissions, with many developing nations adopting laws targeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This is another tool to bring down emission on farm, which will contribute to reaching that goal.”