Wednesday, 29 August 2018 10:55

Cows emitting less nitrogen

Written by 

New research into genetics and breeding could lead to New Zealand raising livestock with lower nitrogen emissions and so lower greenhouse gas effects. 

Two research projects are looking into the possibility of a link between the nitrogen content of milk and animal emissions, and the possibility of identifying then replicating genes to control the level of animals’ nitrogen emissions.

Fonterra’s Less Footprint programme manager, Dr Mike Scarsbrook, says the research is showing that what an animal eats, and genetic factors, play a part in how much nitrogen it excretes.

“This means if animals with lower nitrogen emission can be identified, that trait can be bred into the national herds and the whole country can benefit from lower emissions,” he said.

Nitrous oxide is a small but critical part of NZ greenhouse gas emissions, making up 12% of all emissions in 2016. Like methane, nitrous oxide is a strong contributor to climate change because it more effectively traps heat than carbon dioxide – by about 300 times.

But unlike carbon dioxide, which can last for thousands of years in the atmosphere, nitrous oxide breaks down in about 114 years.

AgResearch, Massey University, DairyNZ and Abacus Bio are the research partners and Fonterra is helping to fund it.

AgResearch has also filed for a patent that builds on this work and provides an option for new tools to identify the low-emitting animals at a genetic level.

 

More like this

Benchmarking key to plant breeding

Plant breeding research for pastoral farming has shifted from the likes of AgResearch to private institutions, says Derek Woodfield, GM research and development, PGG Wrightson Seeds.

Huge cost of pasture pests

Grass grub and porina are causing $2.3 billion of damage to New Zealand pastures annually, according to an AgResearch study.

Ag sector ready to tackle challenges

OPINION: Two important pieces of work released in the last couple of weeks bring into clear focus the challenge New Zealand faces in its greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

Are your cows lying down enough?

We all know how important it is to get eight hours sleep, and while cows have different sleep patterns from us, they do need to spend a similar amount of time lying down. 

GM grass may provide answers

A New Zealand-developed genetically modified ryegrass has reached an important milestone, entering a full growing trial in the US.

 
 

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

My goodness!

Another day, another ‘milk’ appears on the horizon.

Dwarf breeds impress

Good things often come in smaller packages and it may soon be true for dairy farmers.

 
 

» Connect with Dairy News