The Portable Accumulation Chambers, developed by crown research institute AgResearch, are designed to be transported by road to farms or central locations where the cattle can be quickly and efficiently tested to see how much methane they naturally emit. These measures will help farmers understand what the climate change impact is from their herd and individual animals and assist in breeding lower emitting animals.
Methane is a relatively short-lived but potent greenhouse gas emitted by ruminant animals such as cattle, and methane reduction targets are included in climate change legislation. Breeding animals that naturally emit less methane is one way of achieving reductions without cutting stock numbers. It is already proven in sheep, and low-methane dairy cow genetics are expected be in the market in the next few years.
Like the portable accumulation chambers already in use by AgResearch for sheep in New Zealand, the portable cattle chambers provide further options on top of testing methods already in use, such as fixed “respiration chambers” which are located in a facility Palmerston North and require the animals to be transported there and spend extended periods in those fixed chambers.
“This is a first using a portable system like this to measure methane emissions from cattle,” says AgResearch senior scientist Dr Suzanne Rowe.
“We’ve built a relatively simple chamber that can go where the animals are. The cow walks into the chamber and we capture all of the gas that’s emitted from that animal for just one hour. We then use this data to rank animals according to their emissions. We’ve been doing this for many years with sheep, with thousands of measures on farms around New Zealand, and we’ve been able to prove that is an accurate and effective method.”