World-leading, award-winning work by AgResearch scientists has demonstrated that sheep can be bred to produce less methane without sacrificing productivity. Our research has also shown that implementation within the industry can have a real impact on lowering methane emissions in the national flock.

Industry support

With the support of the industry through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) and the government, via the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC), our scientists spent over a decade working on the science and were able to identify genetic differences which influence how much methane an individual sheep produces.  

“The livestock industry relies heavily on genetic improvement to remain competitive and the challenge of lowering methane is no different. The results of this research matter for our farmers,” said PGgRC general manager Mark Aspin. 

Real-world solutions

This research gives the sheep sector a practical tool to help lower our agricultural greenhouse gases:

  • It gives farmers a technology to mitigate methane emissions on their own farms.
  • The low methane-emitting flock is healthy, grows more wool and produces leaner meat.
  • Breeding for low methane-emitting ruminants has the advantage of being permanent and cumulative.

Supreme Award winners at the 2021 Science New Zealand Awards for this breakthrough science, the judges referenced the major significance of this work within Aotearoa New Zealand and the “tangible contribution to the global issue of our time”.

Engineering innovation

This world-first AgResearch achievement also features an engineering innovation in the form of specially designed portable accumulation chambers (AgPAC). These respiration chambers are animal-friendly, enclosed containers used to measure the gas output of ruminants. The AgPAC chambers can be taken onto farms to measure the methane emissions of individual sheep. Animals enter the purpose-built chambers for short periods to measure the gases they produce. 

The chambers were designed and built with approval from the New Zealand Animal Ethics Committee. The sheep typically spend less than an hour in the chambers at any one time, and are removed from the chambers if they are in distress. In our experience, sheep appear quite relaxed whilst in the AgPAC chamber. 

The next step in testing methane outputs amongst the national flock is the AgPAC trailer, which contains 12 chambers and can travel to and set up on-farm to test up to 86 animals a day to establish baseline figures for a flock. AgResearch currently has four AgPAC trailers operating around the country and has exported several overseas to the United Kingdom, Ireland and Norway.

A sheep leaves the AgPAC trailer on a farm in Otago

This trail-blazing research has provided sheep farmers with the opportunity to lower methane in a permanent and cumulative manner… It has opened up the opportunity for all New Zealand livestock industries to follow suit.

Mark Aspin General Manager, Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium

Join the programme

Register your interest and find out more

Sheep Methane Measurement

Into the future

This technology and the principles have been exported to multiple countries to help researchers and breeders worldwide to select and keep low emitters for breeding.  

We are leveraging our knowledge and expertise around low methane-emitting sheep for research into breeding low methane-emitting cattle. 

In addition, we are also exploring other methods to reduce methane production from livestock including the development of inhibitors and a vaccine that could be administered to animals to reduce methane emissions.

Key Projects

Our Research

Latest News


Get in touch with our team

Contact us

Send an email to one of our team or check out our facilities located across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Send another enquiry

Something went wrong and the form could not be submitted. Please try again later.