Milk bottles

Prediction of enteric methane emissions from milk fatty acid profiles and dairy products

Andrés Haro

Enteric fermentation of ruminants is the main source of methane in the dairy industry that constitutes a loss of energy and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Direct quantification of greenhouse gas today is complex and requires high accuracy. Therefore, researchers are taking immediate action to reduce its impact.

Among the different methods used to indirectly measure methane enteric emissions in dairy cattle are predictions from the analysis of fatty acid profiles in milk, an easy method to be used in the field.

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Earth

Evolution of the environmental impact of dairy production

Joaquín Ventura and Fernando Díaz

Agricultural production in general and livestock farming of ruminants, including dairy production, has been associated with the generation of environmental impacts of different kinds: greenhouse gas production, resource consumption, soil and water pollution from animal excretions, visual impact on the landscape, etc.

Producers have strived for decades to minimize all these impacts, so that production is becoming more efficient and generates less environmental footprint, especially if you consider the impact per unit produced, in our case kgs of milk. First, it is more cost-effective to produce by consuming fewer resources, and second environmental awareness has grown greatly since the last third of the twentieth century, both by the producers themselves and by consumers.

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A herd of Holstein dairy cows grazing in a meadow and a few wind turbines behind

High versus low methane emitter cows

Joaquín Ventura García & Fernando Diaz

Although farming really produces less than 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, several recently published news point at animal production as one of main polluting sectors. Several attempts have been made to reduce dairy cow methane emissions such as adding plant oils containing high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids or seaweed to the diets. These methods based on the addition of dietary supplements have an immediate effect but only work while the supplement is fed. In comparison to feeding strategies, breeding schemes based in methane emissions level need more time to have an impact, but they are cumulative and permanent.

Greenhouse level emissions is a heritable trait in ruminants and measuring methane production reveals considerable variability among individuals fed the same diet. If these differences would be consistent over time and with different diets, animal breeding might be a successful strategy to reduce methane emissions in dairy cows.

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Would increasing longevity in dairy cows reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Would increasing longevity in dairy cows reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Fernando Díaz

Milk production is often wrongly considered to be a major source of the greenhouse gases (mainly methane) affecting climate change. Researchers from Switzerland evaluated whether increasing the productive life of cows reduces greenhouse gas emissions as it reduces emissions from the rearing of replacement heifers. Moreover, the investigators determined the change in profitability of cows with increasing their productive life.

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