Heritability of methane emissions from dairy cows over a lactation measured on commercial farms
Methane emission is currently an important trait in studies on ruminants due to its environmental and economic impact. Recent studies were based on short-time measurements on individual cows. As methane emission is a longitudinal trait, it is important to investigate its changes over a full lactation. In this study, we aimed to estimate the heritability of the estimated methane emissions from dairy cows using Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy during milking in an automated milking system by implementing the random regression method. The methane measurements were taken on 485 Polish Holstein-Friesian cows at 2 commercial farms located in western Poland. The overall daily estimated methane emission was 279 g/d. Genetic variance fluctuated over the course of lactation around the average level of 1,509 (g/d)², with the high- est level, 1,866 (g/d)², at the end of the lactation. The permanent environment variance values started at 2,865 (g/d)² and then dropped to around 846 (g/d)² at 100 d in milk (DIM) to reach the level of 2,444 (g/d)² at the end of lactation. The residual variance was estimated at 2,620 (g/d)². The average repeatability was 0.25. The heritability level fluctuated over the course of lactation, starting at 0.23 (SE 0.12) and then increasing to its maximum value of 0.3 (SE 0.08) at 212 DIM and ending at the level of 0.27 (SE 0.12). Average heritability was 0.27 (average SE 0.09). We have shown that estimated methane emission is a heritable trait and that the heritability level changes over the course of lactation. The observed changes and low genetic correlations between distant DIM suggest that it may be important to consider the period in which methane phenotypes are collected. © 2017 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.
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