Aspects of rumen microbiology central to mechanistic modelling of methane production in cattle

J.L. Ellis, J. Dijkstra, E. Kebreab, A. Bannink, N.E. Odongo, B.W. McBride, J. France

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


Methane, in addition to being a significant source of energy loss to the animal that can range from 0·02 to 0·12 of gross energy intake, is one of the major greenhouse gases being targeted for reduction by the Kyoto protocol. Thus, one of the focuses of recent research in animal science has been to develop or improve existing methane prediction models in order to increase overall understanding of the system and to evaluate mitigation strategies for methane reduction. Several dynamic mechanistic models of rumen function have been developed which contain hydrogen gas balance sub-models from which methane production can be predicted. These models predict methane production with varying levels of success and in many cases could benefit from further development. Central to methane prediction is accurate volatile fatty acid prediction, representation of the competition for substrate usage within the rumen, as well as descriptions of protozoal dynamics and pH. Most methane models could also largely benefit from an expanded description of lipid metabolism and hindgut fermentation. The purpose of the current review is to identify key aspects of rumen microbiology that could be incorporated into, or have improved representation within, a model of ruminant digestion and environmental emissions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-233
JournalThe Journal of Agricultural Science
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • hexafluoride sf6 tracer
  • volatile fatty-acids
  • ruminal microorganism fermentation
  • lactating dairy-cattle
  • in-vitro
  • beef-cattle
  • milk-production
  • methanogenic bacteria
  • regression equations
  • mathematical-model


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