There is no shortage of sheep in New Zealand: quite the opposite. There are 6 of them for each person. This is why the livestock industry produces one third of national greenhouse gas emissions.
The New Zealand livestock industry has embarked on a "first global breeding program" to obtain low-methane-emission sheep, which would help tackle climate change.
The main animals reared in the New Zealand livestock sector, beef and lamb, already adopt a parameter called “farm value” to help breeders select specimens with ideal characteristics.
Within two years, breeders will be able to naturally select garments whose characteristics include low methane emissions.
"Farmers are more interested than I expected", said breeder Russell Proffit. His family has been producing sheep for over 40 years.
“I started the measurements of the methane because I believe that a healthy and healthy animal should produce less of it. We want more robust specimens that require less care and have less impact on the environment ”.
A gas chamber (self-produced)
Farmers who want to produce low-methane cattle will have to measure part of their flock in an accumulation chamber, where their gas emissions are measured. The sheep spend 50 minutes in the chamber and are measured twice with an interval greater than 14 days.
The resulting data is used in conjunction with other genetic information to calculate a "methane reproduction value".
Those with low methane emissions will be able to reproduce
Farmers who want to participate have two years to take advantage of the “breeding” heads, so that they can have descendants that are increasingly suitable for characteristics.
It is a worldwide novelty for any species of cattle. Observing methane production offers the New Zealand sheep sector a practical tool to help reduce our greenhouse gases.
Slow but steady
It is estimated that this method of natural selection with low methane emissions should achieve a reduction of about 1% per year and without any negative impact on the productivity of the farm.