Animal Production Science Animal Production Science Society
Food, fibre and pharmaceuticals from animals

Absence of persistent methane emission differences in three breeds of dairy cows

A. Münger A and M. Kreuzer B C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Agroscope Liebefeld-Posieux Research Station ALP, CH-1725 Posieux, Switzerland.

B ETH Zurich, Institute of Animal Science, Universitaetstrasse 2, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48(2) 77-82
Submitted: 27 July 2007  Accepted: 11 October 2007   Published: 2 January 2008


In the present study, data from an experiment with 10 purebred Holstein, Simmental and Jersey cows each were analysed to test the assumption that there are genetically low methane-producing animals. Methane emission of cows offered forage ad libitum and some concentrate was measured for 3 days in open-circuit respiration chambers in weeks 8, 15, 23, 33 and 41 of lactation. Individual cow data were analysed in five different ways: (i) plotting the trend of methane per unit of dry matter intake (DMI) and milk yield over time; relating measured methane production to estimates derived from equations based on either; (ii) DMI or (iii) nutrient intake; (iv) relating residual feed intake (RFI) to methane emission; and (v) analysis of variance of cow × measurement interactions. The Holstein, Simmental and Jersey cows emitted on average 25, 25 and 26 g methane/kg DMI, respectively. There was no indication of individual cows with persistently low or high methane yield per kg DMI and per kg milk. Measured methane emissions differed from estimated values without a clear pattern, and the relationship between RFI and methane emission of the cows was weak. Finally, analysis of variance failed to show distinct patterns of methane per unit of DMI and milk for individual animals. The apparent lack of persistence of individual animal differences in methane yields suggests that genetic determination of this trait is of minor importance in dairy cows.

Additional keywords: cattle, genetic variation, greenhouse gas.


Alford AR, Hegarty RS, Parnell PF, Cacho OJ, Herd RM, Griffith GR (2006) The impact of breeding to reduce residual feed intake on enteric methane emissions from the Australian beef industry. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 46, 813–820.
CrossRef |

Beauchemin K, Kreuzer M, O’Mara F, McAllister T (2008) Nutritional management for enteric methane abatement: a review. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 48, 21–27.

Blaxter KL, Clapperton JL (1965) Prediction of the amount of methane produced by ruminants. The British Journal of Nutrition 19, 511–522.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Boadi DA, Benchaar C, Chiquette J, Massé D (2004) Methane mitigation strategies to reduce enteric methane emission from dairy cows: update review. Canadian Journal of Animal Science 84, 319–335.

Gibbs MJ , Lewis L , Hoffman JS (1989) Reducing methane emissions from livestock. Opportunities and issues. Report EPA 400/1–89/002. US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC.

Goopy JP , Hegarty RS , Dobos RC (2006) The persistence over time of divergent methane production of lot fed cattle. In ‘Greenhouse gases and animal agriculture: an update’. (Eds CR Soliva, J Takahashi, M Kreuzer) pp. 111–114. (Elsevier: Amsterdam)

Hegarty RS, Goopy JP, Herd RM, McCorkell B (2007) Cattle selected for lower residual feed intake have reduced daily methane production. Journal of Animal Science 85, 1479–1486.
CrossRef | CAS | PubMed |

Kirchgessner M, Windisch W, Müller HL, Kreuzer M (1991) Release of methane and of carbon dioxide by dairy cattle. Agribiological Research 44, 91–102.

Mills JAN, Kebreab E, Yates CM, Crompton LA, Cammell SB, Dhanoa MS, Agnew RE, France J (2003) Alternative approaches to predicting methane emissions from dairy cows. Journal of Animal Science 81, 3141–3150.
CAS | PubMed |

Münger A , Kreuzer M (2006) Methane emission as determined in contrasting dairy cattle breeds over the reproduction cycle. In ‘Greenhouse gases and animal agriculture: an update’. (Eds CR Soliva, J Takahashi, M Kreuzer) pp. 119–122. (Elsevier: Amsterdam)

Nkrumah JD, Okine EK, Mathison GW, Schmid K, Li C, Basarab JA, Price MA, Wang Z, Moore SS (2006) Relationships of feedlot feed efficiency, performance and feeding behaviour with metabolic rate, methane production, and energy partitioning in beef cattle. Journal of Animal Science 84, 145–153.
CAS | PubMed |

Pinares-Patiño CS (2000) Methane emission from forage-fed sheep, a study of variation between animals. PhD Thesis, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

Pinares-Patiño CS, Ulyatt MJ, Lassey KR, Barry TN, Holmes CW (2003a) Rumen function and digestion parameters associated with differences between sheep in methane emissions when fed chaffed lucerne hay. The Journal of Agricultural Science 140, 205–214.
CrossRef |

Pinares-Patiño CS, Ulyatt MJ, Lassey KR, Barry TN, Holmes CW (2003b) Persistence of differences between sheep in methane emission under generous grazing conditions. The Journal of Agricultural Science 140, 227–233.
CrossRef |

Pinares-Patiño C , Vlaming B , Cavanagh A , Molano G , Clark H (2005) Persistence of dairy cows in animal-to-animal variation in methane emission. In ‘Working papers of the 2nd international conference on greenhouse gases and animal agriculture’. (Eds CR Soliva, J Takahashi, M Kreuzer) pp. 401–404. (Institute of Animal Science: ETH Zurich, Switzerland)

RAP (1999) ‘Fuetterungsempfehlungen und Naehrwerttabellen für Wiederkaeuer (Feeding Recommendations and Nutrient Tables for Ruminants).’ 4th edn. (Landwirtschaftliche Lehrmittelzentrale Zollikofen: Switzerland)

Robertson LR, Waghorn GC (2002) Dairy industry perspectives on methane emissions and production from cattle fed pasture or total mixed rations in New Zealand. Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production 62, 213–218.

Ulyatt MJ, Baker SK, McCrabb GJ, Lassey KR (1999) Accuracy of SF6 tracer technology and alternatives for field measurements. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 50, 1329–1334.
CrossRef |

Veerkamp RF, Emmans GC, Cromie AR, Simm G (1995) Variance components for residual feed intake in dairy cows. Livestock Production Science 41, 111–120.
CrossRef |

Waghorn GC , Woodward SL , Tavendale M , Clark DA (2006) Inconsistencies in rumen methane production – effects of forage composition and animal genotype. In ‘Greenhouse gases and animal agriculture: an update’. (Eds CR Soliva, J Takahashi, M Kreuzer) pp. 115–118. (Elsevier: Amsterdam)

Rent Article (via Deepdyve) Export Citation Cited By (17)