Results from 4 years of research presented during ‘Reduced methane emission of dairy cows’ seminar

Published on
March 24, 2017

Four years of research provided two indicators for methane emission, demonstrated that methane emission can be reduced through selective breeding, and provided fundamental knowledge about the production of methane in the rumen dairy cows.


A seminar to mark the end of the TiFN project ‘Reduced methane emission of diary cows’ was held on March 14 in Wageningen. During the seminar, results obtained in the project were presented and put into perspective, and implementation of results was discussed. The seminar attracted about 85 participants representing many actors involved in the topic, such as farmer representatives, the ministry of economic affairs, breeding, dairy and feed industry, and research. This resulted in an interesting meeting with lots of interaction among participants.


The TiFN project ‘Reduced methane emission of dairy cows’ started in 2012 and most activities have now been finalized. One of the key issues was the development of so-called indicators for methane emission, because of the need for simple and inexpensive measurement techniques to estimate methane emissions from dairy cattle under field conditions. The first type of indicator relates to milk composition, while the second type of indicator relates to methane in expelled air. Both indicators have moderate to good potential to estimate methane emissions for large numbers of individual cows. Practical implementation of these indicators needs further work. Both indicators were used to collect methane emissions of individual cows on commercial dairy farms. Analyses of this data shows that part of the variation in methane emission between cows is due to genetics. Thus, methane emission of dairy cows can be reduced through selective breeding. Besides, research under experimental conditions has increased our knowledge of the processes in the rumen of the cow that result in the production of methane and of the microbiota involved in these processes. This knowledge can be used to predict the outcome of various strategies to reduce methane emission.

Panel discussion

The implementation of results was discussed with a panel that represented CBL, CRV, FNLI/FrieslandCampina, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Qlip and ZuivelNL. For these parties, reduction of methane emission is an important issue and the results of the project are highly valuable to achieve such reduction. The seminar was appreciated for providing a platform for communication of results and discussion among all actors involved in the topic.