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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through genetic selection in the Australian dairy industry

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-06-23, 07:22 authored by Maria Regina Caeli Richardson, PR Amer, C Quinton, J Crowley, FS Hely, I van den Berg, Jennie PryceJennie Pryce
This research explores possible options to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the Australian dairy industry by (1) including an environmental component in the national breeding program and (2) estimating the economic and environmental impacts of implementation of the subsequent indexes. A total of 12 possible selection indexes were considered. These indexes were developed to predict changes in gross per-animal methane production (using 3 scenarios depending on availability and efficacy of a direct methane trait breeding value prediction) with 4 different carbon prices, integrating them into an augmentation of the current conventional national selection index. Although some economic response is lost with inclusion of the GHG subindexes in the Balanced Performance Index, options do exist where this loss is marginal and, even in scenarios where all selection pressure is based on the environmental weighting, economic progress is still made in all cases. When including environmental traits within an index, if a relatively low percentage of economic gain or index progression is sacrificed, then approximately 40 to 50% of the maximum possible reductions in emissions may be achieved. This concurrent selection of estimated breeding values that have a correlated favorable response in emissions in addition to direct selection on a residual methane trait allows a high level of methane reduction to be achieved with a realized cost to farmers that is far lower than the economic value placed on carbon. By implementing a GHG subindex in the national breeding program, we can achieve up to a 7.9% decrease in residual methane and 9 times the reduction in gross emissions in 10 yr, compared with the current breeding program, with little to no cost to farmers. By 2050, selection based on one of the more moderate index scenarios at a carbon price of AUD$250/t (AUD$1 = US$0.71), or opportunity cost to farmers of AUD$87.22, will reduce gross emissions by 8.23% and emissions intensity by 21.25%, therefore offering a mitigation strategy that will be effective at reducing emissions with little compromise to profit.


Publication Date



Journal of Dairy Science






17p. (p. 4272-4288)


American Dairy Science Association



Rights Statement

© 2022, The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. and Fass Inc. on behalf of the American Dairy Science Association®. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (