Reduction of methane emissions from dairy cows and concurrent improvement of feed efficiency obtained through host genetics and next generation sequencing of rumen microbiome (REMRUM)

The Danish Council for Strategic Research – Grant: DKK 12.249.312

Total budget: DKK 15.513.952

Project period: 01.01.2013 – 31.12.2016


Project description

The ability of the cow to convert grass and roughage into milk and meat edible to humans, in short feed efficiency, is crucial for complying with increased global food demands and calls for highly productive animals. It is, however, of vital importance concurrently to seek maximised productivity through improved feed efficiency and minimized emission of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas and by-product of the rumen microbial fermentation processes.

We propose to achieve improved feed efficiency and reduced methane emission through genetic selection of cows, based on in-depth genetic characterisation of the cow and its rumen microbiota, investigation of their interactions and quantification of feed efficiency and methane emission.

Substantial variations in feed efficiency and methane emission have been observed between cows; variations believed to be determined partly by host genetic differences, partly by differences in the rumen microbiota, and strong interactions between these two factors have in fact been demonstrated recently. In REMRUM we hypothesize that quantitative variation in rumen microbiota composition is controlled by complex combinations of host quantitative trait loci, QTL, and multiple environmental factors, implying that the rumen microbiota behaves as a polygenic trait.

REMRUM will generate new knowledge on variations in the rumen microbiota and its interaction with the host genome. The knowledge generated can be directly applied for selecting animals in routine animal breeding programs to achieve feed efficient cows producing less methane.

Through studies of microbiota and methane emission in more than 1000 cows in commercial Danish dairy herds obtain insights to the importance of genetic background and its interaction with the microbiota will be obtained. This will be supported by detailed intensive studies on extreme hi- and low-emitting cows.

REMRUM is a collaborative project involving AU-ANIS, AU-MBG, DTU-CBS, Viking Genetics and Danish Cattle Research Centre and external partners. REMRUM has strong links to the project “Feed Utilization in Nordic Cattle” supported by “Mælkeafgiftsfonden”.

Applicant and partners

  • Peter Løvendahl (Applicant), Dept. Molecular Biology and Genetics, AU
  • Ole Højberg (Partner), Dept. Animal Science, AU
  • Henrik Bjørn Nielsen (Partner), Center for Biological Sequence analysis, DTU
  • Søren Borchersen (Partner), Viking Genetics
  • Christian Friis Børsting (Partner), Danish Cattle Research Center
  • Erin Connor (Associated partner), USDA, Maryland, USA