Vaccine to reduce methane from cows could be ‘5 to 7 years away’

17th Dec 2017

Southern Rural Life reporter Yvonne O’Hara continues her series of articles on climate change — part of a project developed with funding from the Aotearoa New Zealand Science Journalism Fund.

A vaccine could be available within five to seven years to inhibit methane (CH4) gas production in dairy cows by about 30%.

While the dairy industry is attracting a portion of the blame for climate change and global warming, largely from non-farmers, the sector is doing something about it.

As part of their digestion process, cows produce nitrous oxide and methane, which are greenhouse gases.

However, DairyNZ and the dairy industry, including Fonterra, are looking at ways of mitigating that production as part of the Dairy Action for Climate Change framework, launched earlier this year.

DairyNZ’s senior adviser and policy analyst Kara Lok said AgResearch was working on the methane inhibitor vaccine, and it was one of several studies under way.

”The key thing with climate change, there is no one silver bullet, but we have a suite of options,” Ms Lok said.

Researchers are also looking at nitrous oxide inhibitors, and identifying feed that will produce less methane in ruminants and looking at selective breeding.

Research on forage rape had found it reduced methane (CH4) emissions by 20%-30% in sheep but only limited cattle studies had been done.

Other studies had been done on plantain and fodder beet.

A pilot study found certain sheep emitted up to 6% less CH4 on both lucerne and pasture, while another study looks at other inhibitors for both CH4 and nitrous oxide, as well as management practices, which also reduced greenhouse gas production by about 30%.





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