Prediction of methane emission from lactating dairy cows using milk fatty acids and mid-infrared spectroscopy

Sanne van Gastelen*, Jan Dijkstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Enteric methane (CH4) production is among the main targets of greenhouse gas mitigation practices for the dairy industry. A simple, robust and inexpensive measurement technique applicable on a large scale to estimate CH4 emission from dairy cattle would therefore be valuable. Milk fatty acids (MFA) are related to CH4 production because of the common biochemical pathway between CH4 and fatty acids in the rumen. A summary of studies that investigated the predictive power of MFA composition for CH4 emission indicated good potential, with predictive power ranging between 47% and 95%. Until recently, gas chromatography (GC) was the principal method used to determine the MFA profile, but GC is unsuitable for routine analysis. This has led to the application of mid-infrared (MIR) spectroscopy. The major advantages of using MIR spectroscopy to predict CH4 emission include its simplicity and potential practical application at large scale. Disadvantages include the inability to predict important MFA for CH4 prediction, and the moderate predictive power for CH4 emission. It may not be sufficient to predict CH4 emission based on MIR alone. Integration with other factors, like feed intake, nutrient composition of the feed, parity, and lactation stage may improve the prediction of CH4 emission using MIR spectra.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3963-3968
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • dairy cows
  • methane emission
  • mid-infrared spectroscopy
  • milk fatty acids


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