26 Feb 2024

Scientists from NZ and Ireland join forces to better measure methane emissions

1:31 pm on 26 February 2024
dairy cow

(File photo.) Photo: 123rf

New Zealand and Ireland are joining forces to better understand and calculate methane emissions.

The partnership between the two nations that use pasture-based farm systems will take place over the next four years.

DairyNZ scientists and their Irish counterparts will start gathering data to better quantify emissions factors - which contribute to methane emissions - primarily the cow's diet, feed management, but also the environment and its pregnancy status.

DairyNZ principal scientist Jane Kay said both countries faced national and market targets to reduce methane - and they wanted to refine current calculations.

"Ireland and New Zealand are really unique in that pasture based system, so we sort of need to work together to develop these emission factors that are accurate for us," Kay said.

"To be able to develop [emissions] factors and bring those into equations, we've got to understand what's driving that, and then we can more accurately reflect emissions that are produced," Kay said.

DairyNZ principal scientist Jane Kay.

DairyNZ principal scientist Jane Kay. Photo: DairyNZ / Supplied

She said those factors, including pasture species, management and quality, could be explored as mitigation tools for farmers, which are needed very soon - and this research will help better understand what's possible.

"Obviously with the new government, we're not sure exactly how that pricing mechanism, whether there will be a pricing mechanism, and where that will end," Kay said.

"But if we've got this knowledge and this information, we will be more accurately predicting what each farm is emitting.

"Finding solutions to help farmers reduce emissions while maintaining on-farm profit remains a research priority."

It will also explore potential technologies that fit into pasture systems, like early life intervention, where young calves are fed natural product to reduce emissions over their lifetime.

"This is an attractive delivery mechanism for New Zealand, as it's cost-effective and occurs well before product processing, such as milk harvesting."

She said New Zealand dairy farmers were among the most efficient milk producers in the world, but must continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and have more accurate data for reporting to keep that position.

"Also at a national level, to maintain our competitiveness, we want to make sure that we're more accurately reflecting how much methane has been emitted from the dairy sector in New Zealand.

"This wider programme sees our world-leading scientists working with New Zealand farmers, research organisations and commercial companies to develop workable and scalable mitigation solutions that can be widely adopted on-farm to reduce emissions in a sustainable and viable way."

DairyNZ was awarded funding in 2023 for the project as part of a pilot joint research initiative between New Zealand and Ireland.

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