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Genetic parameters for methane emissions in Australian sheep measured in portable accumulation chambers in grazing and controlled environments

Wahinya, P.K., Oddy, V.H., Dominik, S., Brown, D.J., Macleay, C.A., Paganoni, B., Thompson, A.N.ORCID: 0000-0001-7121-7459, Donaldson, A.J., Austin, K., Cameron, M. and van der Werf, J.H.J. (2022) Genetic parameters for methane emissions in Australian sheep measured in portable accumulation chambers in grazing and controlled environments. Animal Production Science . Online Early.

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Abstract

Context: Genotype by environment interaction or sire re-ranking between measurements of methane emission in different environments or from using different measurement protocols can affect the efficiency of selection strategies to abate methane emission.

Aim: This study tested the hypothesis that measurements of methane emission from grazing sheep under field conditions, where the feed intake is unknown, are genetically correlated to measurements in a controlled environment where feed intake is known.

Methods: Data on emission of methane and carbon dioxide and uptake of oxygen were measured using portable accumulation chambers from 499 animals in a controlled environment in New South Wales and 1382 animals in a grazing environment in Western Australia were analysed. Genetic linkage between both environments was provided by 140 sires with progeny in both environments. Multi-variate animal models were used to estimate genetic parameters for the three gas traits corrected for liveweight. Genetic groups were fitted in the models to account for breed differences. Genetic correlations between the field and controlled environments for the three traits were estimated using bivariate models.

Key results: Animals in the controlled environment had higher methane emission compared to the animals in the field environment (37.0 ± s.d 9.3 and 35.3 ± s.d 9.4 for two protocols vs 12.9 ± s.d 5.1 and 14.6 ± s.d 4.8 mL/min for lambs and ewes (±s.d); P < 0.05) but carbon dioxide emission and oxygen uptake did not significantly differ. The heritability estimates for methane emission, carbon dioxide emission and oxygen uptake were 0.15, 0.06 and 0.11 for the controlled environment and 0.17, 0.27 and 0.35 for the field environment. The repeatability for the traits in the controlled environment ranged from 0.51 to 0.59 and from 0.24 to 0.38 in the field environment. Genetic correlations were high (0.85–0.99) but with high standard errors.

Conclusion: Methane emission phenotypes measured using portable accumulation chambers in grazing sheep can be used in genetic evaluation to estimate breeding values for genetic improvement of emission related traits. The combined measurement protocol-environment did not lead to re-ranking of sires.

Implication: These results suggest that both phenotypes could be used in selection for reduced methane emission in grazing sheep. However, this needs to be consolidated using a larger number of animals and sires with larger progeny groups in different environments.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Animal Production and Health
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
Copyright: © 2022 The Authors.
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/64280
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