NZ Herald: Scientists discover low-methane sheep

Eloise Gibson of the New Zealand Herald writes about the discovery, led by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research, Consortium (PGgRC) that some sheep simply produce less methane than others.

The difference in methane production is about 20%, say the scientists involved, and there is excitement about the possibility for New Zealand to become a world-leader in the breeding of low-methane ruminants.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“The work was paid for by the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium – an alliance between the Government, scientists and the agriculture industry.

“The consortium has about eight sheep in each flock so far, and manager Mark Aspin said the tests would be repeated to find more sheep for each flock. Although it is early days yet, scientists hope to ultimately breed from low-methane animals to cut the gas released by sheep, cows, goats and deer – which account for about one third of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions under internationally agreed limits.

“Mr Aspin said the goal was to create a breeding programme to cut methane without compromising production.

“Cows and sheep are genetically similar so the sheep tests will help understanding of cows.

“Mr Aspin said more tests were needed to check that low-methane sheep were not genetic duds when it came to making milk, wool and meat – and that they passed their emissions profile to their offspring.”