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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Daily methane emissions and emission intensity of grazing beef cattle genetically divergent for residual feed intake

J. I. Velazco A B , R. M. Herd C , D. J. Cottle A and R. S. Hegarty A D
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B National Institute of Agricultural Research, Treinta y Tres 33000, Uruguay.

C Department of Primary Industries, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: rhegart3@une.edu.au

Animal Production Science 57(4) 627-635 https://doi.org/10.1071/AN15111
Submitted: 27 February 2015  Accepted: 15 January 2016   Published: 27 May 2016

Abstract

As daily methane production (DMP; g CH4/day) is strongly correlated with dry matter intake (DMI), the breeding of cattle that require less feed to achieve a desired rate of average daily gain (ADG) by selection for a low residual feed intake (RFI) can be expected to reduce DMP and also emission intensity (EI; g CH4/kg ADG). An experiment was conducted to compare DMP and EI of Angus cattle genetically divergent for RFI and 400-day weight (400dWT). In a 6-week grazing study, 64 yearling-age cattle (30 steers, 34 heifers) were grazed on temperate pastures, with heifers and steers grazing separate paddocks. Liveweight (LW) was monitored weekly and DMP of individual cattle was measured by a GreenFeed emission monitoring unit in each paddock. Thirty-nine of the possible 64 animals had emission data recorded for 15 or more days, and only data for these animals were analysed. For these cattle, regression against their mid-parent estimated breeding value (EBV) for post-weaning RFI (RFI-EBV) showed that a lower RFI-EBV was associated with higher LW at the start of experiment. Predicted dry matter intake (pDMI), predicted DMP (pDMP) and measured DMP (mDMP) were all negatively correlated with RFI-EBV (P < 0.05), whereas ADG, EI, predicted CH4 yield (pMY; g CH4/kg DMI) were not correlated with RFI-EBV (P > 0.1). Daily CH4 production was positively correlated with animal LW and ADG (P < 0.05). The associations between ADG and its dependent traits EI and pMY and predicted feed conversion ratio (kg pDMI/kg ADG) were strongly negative (r = –0.82, –0.57 and –0.85, P < 0.001) implying that faster daily growth by cattle was accompanied by lower EI, MY and feed conversion ratio. These results show that cattle genetically divergent for RFI do not necessarily differ in ADG, EI or pMY on pasture and that, if heavier, cattle with lower RFI-EBV can actually have higher DMP while grazing moderate quality pastures.

Additional keywords: CH4, feed conversion efficiency, grazing cattle, greenhouse gases, measurement, RFI.


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