Variability in Enteric Methane Emissions among Dairy Cows during Lactation: Animals

Ali Hardan, Philip C. Garnsworthy, Matt J. Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


The aim of this study was to investigate variability in enteric CH4 emission rate and emissions per unit of milk across lactations among dairy cows on commercial farms in the UK. A total of 105,701 CH4 spot measurements were obtained from 2206 mostly Holstein-Friesian cows on 18 dairy farms using robotic milking stations. Eleven farms fed a partial mixed ration (PMR) and 7 farms fed a PMR with grazing. Methane concentrations (ppm) were measured using an infrared CH4 analyser at 1s intervals in breath samples taken during milking. Signal processing was used to detect CH4 eructation peaks, with maximum peak amplitude being used to derive CH4 emission rate (g/min) during each milking. A multiple-experiment meta-analysis model was used to assess effects of farm, week of lactation, parity, diet, and dry matter intake (DMI) on average CH4 emissions (expressed in g/min and g/kg milk) per individual cow. Estimated mean enteric CH4 emissions across the 18 farms was 0.38 (s.e. 0.01) g/min, ranging from 0.2 to 0.6 g/min, and 25.6 (s.e. 0.5) g/kg milk, ranging from 15 to 42 g/kg milk. Estimated dry matter intake was positively correlated with emission rate, which was higher in grazing cows, and negatively correlated with emissions per kg milk and was most significant in PMR-fed cows. Mean CH4 emission rate increased over the first 9 weeks of lactation and then was steady until week 70. Older cows were associated with lower emissions per minute and per kg milk. Rank correlation for CH4 emissions among weeks of lactation was generally high. We conclude that CH4 emissions appear to change across and within lactations, but ranking of a herd remains consistent, which is useful for obtaining CH4 spot measurements.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Early online date31 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


  • cattle
  • methane
  • measurements
  • farm


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