Researchers have been able to draw conclusions about methane production in cattle with the help of a machine called Green Feed.

The machine measures methane from cattle through their exhaled breath when they come to eat pellets out of the hood. Green Feed uses RFID technology to track and record each animal.

Carolyn Fitzsimmons, a researcher with Agriculture and Agri- Food Canada, says they have been using the machine for three summers, and have drawn a couple conclusions.

"Our first conclusion is that there is variation in methane emissions in cattle. And that's exciting because that says, well maybe we can select for cows that produce less methane. The second thing we've found, is that cattle that have low RFI's, so they're more feed efficient, produce less methane over the day than cattle who that have high RFI."

Fitzsimmons says, solely focusing on methane production when selecting cattle probably isn't the best choice.

"You could select for more efficient cattle, and get reasonable methane production, but you want animals that have high fertility and high productivity. If they're on the ground producing calves, they're not producing methane for nothing because you're getting a product out of it. But if it's a cow that's just eating, and not producing anything, that's a huge source of methane production without any output. If you can get your beef production system to run better, you can have a much larger impact on methane production, than just selecting for methane it's self. "

The machine can measure 30 animals for 30 days, so they've been moving it to a number of research centres around Alberta to collect as many animal phenotypes for methane.


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