The main aim of this project is to find how we best can reduce the environmental footprint of Norwegian dairy production by breeding. Before a new trait, like methane emission, can be considered included in the breeding goal, research is needed to estimate genetic variation and validate how accurate we can predict the genetic merit of the animals. For this we need measures of methane emissions for individual Norwegian Red (NR) cows. Equipment for monitoring methane emission (GreenFeed) has been installed in selected herds. All cows in these herds will be genotyped. Methane data together with data from the herds automatic milking system are collected to a central database Establishing data collection and routines for data editing and quality control will be the first important milestone in the project. Based on this data we will estimate heritability of methane production in NR.
The environmental footprint of dairy production can be reduced by genetic selection. This can be direct selection, with genetic evaluation based on methane (CH4) emission measures of individual cows or indirect selection using indicator traits, such as mid infrared (MIR) spectral data from milk samples. Another strategy is through reduction of waste, i.e. genetic improvement of fertility, health and longevity will reduce the need for replacement heifers and thereby reduce CH4-production. In this project we aim at working along all these strategies. Before a new trait, like methane emission, can be considered included in the breeding goal research is needed to estimate genetic parameters for the population and validate reliability of genomic predicted breeding values. For this purpose measures of methane production for individual cows has been established in selected herds with milking robot. Methane measures from a total of around 3000 Norwegian Red (NR) cows will be available for the project. All cows will be genotyped. Based on this data we will estimate heritability of methane production in NR, validate reliability of genomic breeding values, and estimate genetic correlations between methane production and important traits in the NR breeding goal. Prediction equation for methane emission for NR based on milk MIR spectral data will be derived and validated. The project will deliver the knowledge necessary to evaluate how methane emission best can be included in the NR breeding goal, and whether it is possible to balance climate effects, milk production, health and fertility in a sustainable breeding goal.