Ireland is “standing on the precipice of a major breakthrough that will be a game changer in our drive to reduce agricultural emissions”, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.
He was referring to a “world-first” scientific breakthrough that can enable the reduction of methane from the Irish cattle herd through animal genetics, as reported by That’s Farming in this news article.
This will be possible because of the publication of methane evaluations, which will enable breeding programs to reduce daily methane emissions in beef cattle.
According to Minister McConalogue, the implementation of a low methane emitting breeding programme has “significant” potential to harness the genetic variation for methane emissions that exists within the national herd.
This, in turn, he explained, will bring about permanent and cumulative reductions in the methane output of future generations of livestock.
More environmentally sustainable animals
“The results of the research also highlight the potential to breed more environmentally sustainable animals while, at the same time, not having a negative impact on the animal’s performance and profitability,” he remarked.
“I am excited to make this announcement which is a tangible output from significant investment by the DAFM’s research programme towards innovative and collaborative research into breeding strategies.”
“Science is the ace up our sleeve in reaching our climate targets, and we are being strategic in our approach to backing credible and practical science.”
Minister Heydon said the “extensive, ground-breaking” research conducted as part of the DAFM-funded GREENBREED project represents a global first for the Irish beef sector.
“It will help us to reduce methane emissions from beef cattle in a way that is both economically and environmentally sustainable.”
“This announcement underlines the ambition and commitment of the DAFM to fund research and innovation that provides tangible tools and technologies that can be deployed on farms.”
He added: “Adoption of these advances and other breeding initiatives in the National Cattle Breeding Programme will play a part in enhancing the viability of Irish farms and further the reputation of Ireland for producing milk and beef products to the highest environmental standards.”
Changes to the national herd without costs
The coordinator of the GREENBREED project, Prof Donagh Berry, is of the view that breeding strategies boast the advantages of being a technology that has “already proven to deliver”.
“The benefits will accumulate over time, delivering permanent changes to the entire national herd without additional costs to producers.”
“More importantly though, the benefits achieved through breeding are complementary and stack on top of advances being achieved through other farming management practices and technologies being investigated,” he concluded.