Loewith, a third-generation farmer in Lynden, Ontario, in June started artificially inseminating 107 cows and heifers with the first-to-market bull semen with a low-methane genetic trait.

“Selectively breeding for lower emissions, as long as we’re not sacrificing other traits, seems like an easy win,” Loewith said.

The arrival of commercially available genetics to produce dairy cattle that emit less methane could help reduce one of the biggest sources of the potent greenhouse gas, scientists and cattle industry experts say.

Burps are the top source of methane emissions from cattle. Semex, the genetics company that sold Loewith the semen, said adoption of the low-methane trait could reduce methane emissions from Canada’s dairy herd by 1.5% annually, and up to 20%-30% by 2050.

The company this spring began marketing semen with the methane trait in 80 countries. Early sales include a farm in Britain and dairies in the US and Slovakia, said vice-president Drew Sloan.

If adopted widely, low-methane breeding could have a “profound impact” on cattle emissions globally, said Frank Mitloehner, professor of animal science at University of California Davis, who was not involved in developing the trait.

Some dairy industry officials remain unconvinced about low-methane breeding, saying it could lead to digestion problems.

Canada’s agriculture department said in an email that it has not yet assessed the methane evaluation system underlying the product but that reducing emissions from livestock was “extremely important.”

Livestock account for 14.5% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is the second-biggest greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide.

While farmers can feed additives to cattle to reduce methane production, their effects wear off once cattle stop eating them and they are not approved for use in the United States, Mitloehner said.

The low-methane breeding material is the product of a partnership between Semex and Canada’s milk-recording agency Lactanet and based on research by Canadian scientists.

Lactanet in April released the world’s first national genomic methane evaluation, and has produced results from Holstein cows and heifers on 6,000 farms, representing nearly 60% of Canada’s dairy farms.

According to reuters.com. Source of photos: internet