Genetic parameters for repeatedly recorded enteric methane concentrations of dairy cows

A.E. van Breukelen*, M.A. Aldridge, R.F. Veerkamp, Y. de Haas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Animal breeding techniques offer potential to reduce enteric emissions of ruminants to lower the environmental impact of dairy farming. The aim of this study was to estimate the heritability and repeatability of methane (CH4) concentrations, using the largest data set from long-term repeatedly recorded CH4 on cows to date, and to evaluate (1) the accuracy of breeding values for different CH4 traits, including using visits or weekly means, and (2) recording strategies (with varying numbers of records and recorded daughters per sire). The data comprised of long-term recording of CH4 and carbon dioxide (CO2), from 1,746 Holstein Friesian cows, on 14 commercial dairy farms throughout the Netherlands. Emissions were recorded in 10- to 35-s intervals, between 64 and 436 d, depending on farms. From each robot visit, CH4 and CO2 concentrations were summarized into various traits, averaged per visit and per week: mean, median, mean log, and mean CH4/CO2 ratio. Genetic parameters were estimated with animal repeatability models, using a restricted maximum likelihood procedure, and a relationship matrix based on genotypes and pedigree. The heritability was equal for mean and median CH4 per visit (0.13) but lower for logCH4 and CH4/CO2 (0.07 and 0.01, respectively). Phenotypic and genetic correlations were high (≥0.78) between the CH4 traits, apart from the genetic correlations with the CH4/CO2 trait, which were negative. To achieve a minimum reliability of 50% for the estimated breeding value of a bull, 25 records on mean CH4, measured on 10 different daughters, were sufficient. Although the heritability and repeatability were higher for weekly (0.32 and 0.68, respectively) than for visit mean CH4 (0.13 and 0.30, respectively), the reliabilities of estimated breeding values from visit or weekly means were equal; thus, we found no advantage in averaging records to weekly means for genetic evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4256-4271
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number5
Early online date17 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • dairy cows
  • genetics
  • methane emissions


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