Methane Management in Dairy Cattle
January 2023

Like it or not, our agricultural animals produce a fair bit of methane. Maybe you just want to keep up with the ongoing wall of future compliance (what is next ?!...), or maybe you want to keep NZ at the front of low emission agriculture. Either way, managing methane outputs is probably going to be something that we will need to think about more in the near future.

There is a lot of work going on around the world and in NZ aroundreducing greenhouse gas outputs whilemaintaining milk and redmeat production.

Genetics willoffer some interesting opportunities, but in the veterinary space there are also some upcoming solutionsusing methane inhibitors and methane vaccines. Both of these target methanogenorganisms. These methane producing bugs are a normal part of the rumen microbialcommunity, but unlike many of the plant digestingmicrobes, they are not essentialfor the host animal.

Methane inhibitors are substances that need to be fed regularly to animals, that stop the activity of the methanogen organisms. Researchhas been lookingat options to deliver the inhibitors either via daily feed rations or a controlled release capsule. A study from dairy cows inthe US showed that emissions were reduced by 30%, without affecting milk production. A French study showed a24% reduction in methane emissions, also with no effect on milk production.

Methane vaccines are given to the cow like other vaccines, and the cow produces antibodies in her saliva.The antibodies bind to the methanogens, reducing their activity.

There will obviously need to be a financial incentive to introduce this new science, and there is still have a lot of field research to be done before they are commercially available, but it is good to be aware of near future developments.

Methane in dairy cattle