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Variation in enteric methane emissions among cows on commercial dairy farms

  • M. J. Bell (a1), S. L. Potterton (a1), J. Craigon (a1), N. Saunders (a1), R. H. Wilcox (a1), M. Hunter (a1), J. R. Goodman (a1) and P. C. Garnsworthy (a1)...

Abstract

Methane (CH4) emissions by dairy cows vary with feed intake and diet composition. Even when fed on the same diet at the same intake, however, variation between cows in CH4 emissions can be substantial. The extent of variation in CH4 emissions among dairy cows on commercial farms is unknown, but developments in methodology now permit quantification of CH4 emissions by individual cows under commercial conditions. The aim of this research was to assess variation among cows in emissions of eructed CH4 during milking on commercial dairy farms. Enteric CH4 emissions from 1964 individual cows across 21 farms were measured for at least 7 days/cow using CH4 analysers at robotic milking stations. Cows were predominantly of Holstein Friesian breed and remained on the same feeding systems during sampling. Effects of explanatory variables on average CH4 emissions per individual cow were assessed by fitting a linear mixed model. Significant effects were found for week of lactation, daily milk yield and farm. The effect of milk yield on CH4 emissions varied among farms. Considerable variation in CH4 emissions was observed among cows after adjusting for fixed and random effects, with the CV ranging from 22% to 67% within farms. This study confirms that enteric CH4 emissions vary among cows on commercial farms, suggesting that there is considerable scope for selecting individual cows and management systems with reduced emissions.

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