Prize Awarded to Researchers for Breeding Climate-friendly Cows

Wed, 31 Jan 2018

DENMARK - The Innovation Fund Denmark's Grand Solutions Prize has been awarded to three researchers for their work involving breeding of climate-friendly cows.

Peter Løvendahl from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Aarhus University, Jan Lassen from Viking Genetics and Henrik Bjørn Nielsen from the Technical University of Denmark have received the Innovation Fund Denmark's Grand Solutions Prize for breeding climate-friendly cows.

This can reduce methane emissions in Denmark by a CO2-equivalent of 90,000 tonnes CO2 per year. The prize was awarded by Søren Pind, Minister for Higher Education and Science on 26 January 2018.

Every time a cow burps, it emits methane and contributes to global warming. Methane emissions from cattle represent 6 per cent of the total greenhouse gas emissions from Denmark.

The group of Danish researchers have worked on finding a way to reduce the amount of methane emitted from cows.

After four years of study supported by Innovation Fund Denmark, the researchers managed to reduce methane emissions by 5 per cent, equivalent to 90,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, while at the same time reducing feed consumption by 1 per cent. Since Denmark leads in export of climate-friendly bull semen, the results present great prospects.

Researchers from the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (Senior Scientist Peter Løvendahl), the Cattle Breeding Association Viking Genetics (Project Manager Jan Lassen) and DTU (Chief Scientific Officer Henrik Bjørn Nielsen) have achieved these results by mapping several thousand cow genes and analyzing milk yield and feed consumption. They then selected those cows with the most optimal inheritance.

"A reduction of 5 per cent may not seem like much, but it should be remembered that it is achieved through genetic selection, and will therefore increase in future generations as hereditary changes accumulate.

"Over time, we will see really big changes. It should be added that feed consumption is also reduced. This means that climate-friendly cows are also advantageous for cattle farmers," said Dr Løvendahl.