Danish Prize Goes to Geneticists for Climate-Friendly Cows
Credit: Keith Weller/USDA
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 Solution Prize for the breeding of climate-friendly cows, which in Denmark alone ensures a reduced emission equivalent to 90,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. The prize was awarded by Søren Pind, the Danish Minister for Higher Education and Science.
Every time a cow burps, it emits methane and thus contributes to an increase in global warming. In fact, the emissions of methane from cows represent 6% of the total greenhouse effect from Denmark. Therefore, a group of researchers decided to find out how to reduce the amount of methane in cows.
After four years of study supported by the Innovation Fund Denmark, the researchers managed to reduce methane emissions by 5%, equivalent to 90,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, while at the same time they managed to reduce feed consumption by 1%. Since Denmark is the leader in export of climate-friendly bull semen, the results have potentially global implications.
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 and then selected those cows with the most optimal inheritance.
A reduction of 5% does not seem of much, but consider that these changes were achieved through genetic selection, and thus will be increased in future generations as hereditary changes accumulate. Over time, it will show really big changes, and it should be added that feed consumption is reduced at the same time. This means that climate-friendly cows are also an advantage for cattle farming, says Peter Løvendahl.