August 2016

Research and Development

Bridging Research Will Help Reduce Methane Production and Improve Feed Efficiency

 


Environmental and economic sustainability are important focus areas for Alberta’s beef cattle industry. Reducing cattle methane production and increasing feed and production efficiency will positively impact industry’s long-term viability and social license to operate.

One recent Alberta project, known as gGreenBeefCow, will merge information to bridge gaps and provide linkages between three ongoing studies in methane production and feed efficiency. Researchers in the gGreenBeefCow project will evaluate biomarkers of methane production in beef cattle, investigate relationships between methane production and other methane-related traits, and then add this information to larger databases. The aim is to increase sample sizes to detect correlations between methane production and the genomic profiles of beef cattle.

According to Dr. Carolyn Fitzsimmons, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, this bridged information will help researchers create significant value through improved predictions.

“The gGreenBeefCow project will provide genetic selection strategies to mitigate methane emissions from beef cattle production,” shares Fitzsimmons.

Together with Dr. Leluo Guan, who specializes in the study of microflora in livestock in the department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science at the University of Alberta, and Dr. John Basarab, who specializes in residual feed intake and production efficiency for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, the team will identify and evaluate genomic and fecal microbiome markers for low methane emissions in beef cattle.

The project will merge the samples of approximately 1,000 animals and will include genotyping, methane measurement and a microbiome component that measures fecal samples. The genotyping will enable identification of genomic markers associated with the large number of phenotypes collected. The methane emission data will then be matched with dry matter intake data and develop more accurate predictions for methane production, together with individual animal feed efficiency.

Once that information is compiled, the gGreenBeefCow project will support the development of products such as genetic selection tools, probiotics and fecal microbiome markers. These technologies will help reduce methane production, while improving producers’ bottom-line and overall sustainability of the beef industry.

Dr. Susan Novak, Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives for the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), recognizes that this work will benefit the beef industry in Alberta. “This project demonstrates that industry cares about the environmental impact of beef production and simultaneously improves feed efficiency, which is economically important to the industry.”

The gGreenBeefCow project received support from ALMA, while the three ongoing studies received support from the Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation, ALMA, and the Beef Cattle Research Council via the Growing Forward 2 programs.

For more information about the gGreenBeefCow project, contact Dr. Carolyn Fitzsimmons at cfitzsim@ualberta.ca.