Breeding low emission cows could help farmers meet their climate targets

  • 22/08/2022

New Zealand cities have seen plenty of low emission vehicles start to hit the streets, but in rural areas low emission animals could be hitting the pastures.

Farmers are aiming to reduce their emissions by 10 percent before 2030 and while there is no silver bullet solution, scientists may have found a "silver nugget".

AgFirst managing director James Allen told Bernadine Oliver-Kerby on AM genetic solutions are needed to help farmers who genuinely want to reduce their carbon footprint.

The amount of methane emissions an animal produces is strongly linked to how much they eat.

"So in other words the more [it] eats the more [it] burps out and emits into the atmosphere," Allen said. "This is a bit of a conundrum because we need to eat to produce, so we eat less, we produce less and we emit less."

He said Kiwi scientists are looking at what animals burp less and found there was quite a difference between the top and bottom emitters.

Allen said research is underway to breed the "cow of the future".

Agri-technology companies are already breeding animals that are 15 to 20 percent more efficient, Allen said, but it takes time to introduce the low emission bulls into the herd.

Allen said it would take at least a decade before the animals come into circulation into farms, but he is excited about the research because it is a tangible thing farmers can implement.

"Any gains we can take at the moment are truly welcome because the main problem is there's not a lot of tools in our tool box at the moment."